Director Lawrence Ireland
Nolin RECC District 6 covers the northern part of Hardin County where Radcliff meets the Fort Knox border. While the area inside the Fort Knox base does not lie within a Nolin service territory district (as we do not provide electricity there), our crews maintain the infrastructure including miles of line, poles and other equipment.
Nolin has partnered with Fort Knox through the years on various infrastructure and resiliency projects as well as scholarship opportunities for its students. Continuing our effort to support the mission of Fort Knox, we would like to highlight a project that benefits military families, the Fort Knox Community Garden. Recently, our subsidiary Wide Open Utility Service had the opportunity to supply wood chips for the garden while they were clearing right-of-way on base.
Below is a Q & A with the coordinator of the garden, Alisyn Kandybowicz:
What is the history of the Ft Knox Community Garden?
Fort Knox military installation has a transient community. So, the traditional style community garden typically results in plots being abandoned when members move to new duty stations. We created a new plan through a cooperative-style community effort that will allow the garden to sustain our military transience.
What are the current plans for developing the garden?
Our 2023 “Mission: Food Forest” targets food insecurity among our military families by providing our community with gardening and nutrition education along with free garden produce. We have partnered with the Red Cross Helping Hands Food Pantry for community outreach and the Army Physical Resilience Work Group who assisted us in developing clear action plans (thanks to Dietician, Ms. Laura Bottoms). Sundays and Mondays, our Harvest Team will collect any excess produce not used by garden members and take it to the Red Cross food pantry down the street. It is like a community team building exercise, and we are having so much fun out there. As for funding, we currently have a Fort Knox Community Garden Amazon wishlist, and we have received the majority of our donations from out-of-state family members. We have a lot of potential sponsors that are reaching out to help us including the ACTUAL Army Cavalry coming in to save the day! Fort Knox’s 4th Cavalry MFTB, Fort Knox Spouses & Community Club (FKSCC), and Lowes-Elizabethtown are among three of our sponsors that are currently creating plans to support us.
Who is involved in carrying out those plans?
We are receiving support from every corner of our military installation. Knox Hills created by lendlease military housing development has gifted us nearly half acre of space to create this magic. Nolin RECC delivers free mulch drops to us. The five schools on post and two after school care centers are having a competition to design our new garden sign that our Garrison Commander, Col Lance O’Bryan will vote on. Some classrooms are growing our butterflies, praying mantis, and ladybugs for our Earth Day beneficial bug release event. Boy scouts are building some of our table garden beds for our accessible gardening area. Girl scouts are painting the garden beds and researching how to attract our native pollinators. Our Barr Library is partnering with girl scouts to create a seed library. The child development center painted rocks for us. Small business, Dreaming Creations with Zoe, is sponsoring our imaginative and adventurous children’s garden inspired by Bernheim Forest’s Playcosystem. We even have our own tinker fairy, Jennifer Stempien, who has designed and directed the building of all of our garden beds. Haley Sanders is our Fairy Garden project manager, and she created a fairy garden scavenger hunt. PWOC is designing our peace garden. Amy Aldenderfer from Hardin County Cooperative Extension Services is teaching a KY veggie gardening 101 class for us. United Way of Central Kentucky Community Garden leaders have given us some invaluable advice. Angela Caruso volunteered her marketing expertise to help us with initial branding design. I could go on and on. It is truly a community effort!
How will the garden be used? Who will have access?
Just like the public playgrounds on Knox Hills property can be used by any community members, the garden can be visited and enjoyed by anyone as well. You don’t have to reside on post to be part of the “military community.” If you are in a food crisis- please take what you need from the garden. Any active duty/reserve soldiers, veterans, retirees, government civilians, their families, etc. are encouraged to get involved. You can sign up to volunteer on the Army Volunteer Management Information System (VMIS) by searching for “community garden.” We have a general “groundskeeper” position if you just want to help out with occasional garden duties. There is an overall garden plan we are working toward. There are various sections in the works such as tomato, lettuce, pepper, strawberry, okra, squash, etc. We will be succession planting according to the appropriate time to plant each type. If you are passionate about a certain fruit/veggie, it’s yours to cultivate! For example, I am doing the luffa gourd and okra sections. We have a pumpkin lady, Bailie Tuttle, designing our small but mighty pumpkin patch. We are all learning Kentucky gardening together as almost all of us are not KY natives.
Are there any groups working regularly on the garden?
By posting Facebook events and luring people with donuts and coffee, we have been getting great turnouts of 15-20 volunteers out there doing the heavy lifting trying to prep the space for our spring opening day (March 20). The groups are an equal mix of active duty soldiers and spouses. The kids of all ages LOVE being put to work. I love spending time with my husband and our three kids out there (ages 1,6, and 11) – it brings us all so much joy to go play in the dirt together! Alejandra Velasquez from small business “Dreaming Creations with Zoe” has been out there tirelessly working to prepare the space for the children’s garden.
What is your own background and how you got started with the garden
I am a bilingual speech language pathologist, military spouse, mom of three, community garden coordinator and social horticulture enthusiast! The community garden serves as a beacon of mental and physical health for me, so I seek it out or create it at every duty station. We moved to Fort Knox July 2022, but I am an Arizona native, and a prior community garden coordinator in South Texas. During COVID, I created my own victory garden and shared produce with the neighbors. I strive for the motto “bloom where you’re planted” (because who knows where the Army is going to plant us next).
A cooperative-style community garden/food forest is a symbol of a supportive community (like the one Garrison Commander, Col Lance O’Bryan, has fostered here on Fort Knox for us), and I want to be a conduit of that everywhere I go.