Indiana University students develop programming for community garden

Students studying public health imagine Orange County community garden as site of youth education programs


Carl Nelson


Jacob Simpson, Marshall Curry


Orange County Community Garden, Paoli, IN
Community Size
19,646 (2019 Census Estimation)
Indiana University
Sustaining Hoosier Communities
Case Type
Project Stories
Family Studies, Human Development
EPA Region 5, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
3 Good Health and Well-Being

Orange County is a rural southern Indiana county comprising four incorporated towns and a number of unincorporated communities. Residents are intent on celebrating the county’s industrial roots, natural beauty, and historic architecture while embracing and preparing for the future. Local progress is driven in large part by “grassroots cooperative leadership” (Report, Pg. 4), while legal and medical non-profits provide essential communal services. This community-oriented mentality lends itself to innovative partnerships between various actors working towards common goals in areas like infrastructure, culture, tourism, and healthcare. 

A community garden with strong roots, untapped potential

Community gardens are capable of improving physical and mental health and community wellbeing (Greenleaf Communities). The Orange County Community Garden, located in Paoli, Indiana, is an indispensable local resource. Created with the three-pronged goal to “build community, grow and harvest produce, and eliminate hunger,” (Indiegogo) the garden provides low income families with access to affordable, healthy food through various channels. Local stakeholders, determined to extend the garden’s utility as a space for youth recreation and education, reached out to students at Indiana University.

Taking a public health approach to youth programming

This project was made possible through the Sustaining Hoosier Communities (SHC) program. Dr. Deb Getz enlisted the help of students studying youth development in the School of Public Health. Working with community partner Dessica Albertson from HandUp OC, Getz’s students were challenged to devise potential youth programming plans for the Orange County Community Garden. Participants aimed to create health-oriented programming which was educational, recreational, and accessible.

Offering hands-on education for the next generation

In the Orange County Community Garden, Getz’s students saw a public health opportunity. Participants applied their knowledge of youth development to create actionable, site-specific program concepts. Their recommendations represent an important step towards educating Orange County’s young people about nutrition and local food systems.

The Orange County Community Garden presents an opportunity to foster community through hands-on education. The programming students developed has the potential to start a dialogue and transform local residents’ relationship with their food and planet.  

Sustaining Hoosier Communities Contact Info
Jane Rogan
Sustaining Hoosier Communities Director
(812) 855-0568

Indiana University Faculty Contact Info
Deb Getz

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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