From Rubble to Riches

Fiskars’ “Project Orange Thumb” Transforms Site of Abandoned Building into a Beautiful, Productive Community Garden


On June 2, the temperature hit 95 degrees in Columbus, Ohio. Yet even intense heat, poison ivy, heaps of trash and rotting tires couldn’t stop Fiskars’ Project Orange Thumb from transforming an abandoned lot in the Linden neighborhood into a food-yielding garden that doubles as a vibrant performing arts venue. It was all made possible by a tool that can’t be bought in stores: the positive attitudes of over 70 volunteers.

“I think it’s time for people to start to look at the beauty of what we have in the Linden area as opposed to all the negative things that’s reported in the news,” said Kwodwo Ababio, owner of the adjacent New Harvest Café and “spiritual leader” behind starting community gardens in the Linden neighborhood.

Columbus, OH Garden Makeover

Some of the healthy, affordable food grown in the new garden will be dispersed to needy residents through Ababio’s New Harvest Café — a life-saving boon in a community plagued by diabetes and obesity. Ababio hopes to create eight more community gardens throughout North Linden, transforming the neighborhood into an “Inner City Oasis.” Yet Ababio thinks the spiritual sustenance provided through arts and education will be just as important as the nutritional value supplied by the transformed space.

“I’m an artist, first of all,” said Ababio as he cut ham sandwiches for the dozens of volunteers hard at work next door. “People want to call me an activist. But the community is my canvas.”

Local residents will use the garden as a community gathering space and performing arts venue for plays, concerts, poetry readings and other special events. The garden will also serve as an environmental learning laboratory for the Linden-McKinley STEM Academy, where students can get hands-on experience learning about and caring for a wide range of plant life. In addition, Bethel A.M.E. Church, an organization that has been reaching out to help Linden families for years, plans to send volunteers from the church to help care for the garden and use the space as a learning sanctuary for its Sunday school program.


“First dig” began at 6:45 a.m. with more than 70 volunteers, including Ababio and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, taking part. Author and TV host Joe Lamp’l, designer of the garden, was also on hand to oversee the planting throughout the day. Fiskars donated a range of lawn and garden tools, basic gardening materials, seedlings, start-up plants and the time of employee volunteers. Other participants included 30 volunteers from The Home Depot Foundation, 15 from the Franklin Park Conservatory and 15 from the Linden neighborhood. After eight hours of teamwork and plenty of elbow grease, the garden makeover was complete and the event culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:00 p.m.


“It was wonderful to see such civic and community collaboration throughout the entire day,” said Paul Tonnesen, president of Fiskars. “Fiskars came to Linden because it represents a neighborhood committed to the concept of community responsibility and sharing. It was heartening to see the community banding together to build something they can utilize, sustain and enjoy for years to come. This has been one of the best examples of the spirit of community gardening we’ve seen.”

See the garden today, known as the Ama Vera’s Garden. Click here »

Fiskars, one of the world’s leading suppliers of tools for the home, garden and outdoors, founded Project Orange Thumb in 2002. To date, Fiskars has donated nearly $1 million to community gardens through the program. Baltimore, Atlanta, Toronto, Orlando, San Francisco, Chicago and Portland have been recipients of past community garden makeovers and neighborhood beautification. Vancouver (June 23) will soon be added to the list as another beneficiary of the project in 2010.


The Home Depot Crew

Created in 2002, The Home Depot Foundation supports nonprofit organizations dedicated to creating and preserving healthy, affordable homes as the cornerstone of sustainable communities. The Foundation’s goal is for all families to have the opportunity to live in healthy, efficient homes they can afford over the long-term; to have access to safe, vibrant parks and green spaces; and to receive the economic, social and environmental benefits of living in a sustainable community. Since its formation, The Home Depot Foundation has granted $190 million to nonprofit organizations and supported the development of more than 95,000 homes, planted more than 1.2 million trees, and built or refurbished more than 1,875 playgrounds, parks and green spaces.


A program of Franklin Park Conservatory, Growing to Green is Columbus' largest organized effort to promote and provide free community resources for community gardening and city beautification. Started in March 2000, Growing to Green has assisted in the start-up or renovation of more than 150 community gardens throughout the central Ohio area. While most are community gardens, others are school gardens, memorial gardens, and neighborhood beautification projects. Since its inception, Growing to Green has risen to national acclaim and, in May 2006, Franklin Park Conservatory became the national headquarters of the American Community Gardening Association.


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Columbus Dispatch
Community garden blossoms in North Linden


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