FROM HOBBY TO NECESSITY
Lucke is glad to see that public perception of gardening has changed in recent years. “Pre-Covid, gardening was considered more of a hobby, just a fun thing to do,” he explained. “During Covid, with food supply chain issues and seeing the impact we had on our climate, people started to take gardening more seriously … maybe we should be a little healthier, maybe we should take care of our planet.”
The passion Lucke feels for the health of his community made Gardopia Gardens a prime participant in the H. E. Butt Foundation’s 2022-2023 Peer Learning Cohort. According to Lucke, the cohort has brought Gardopia’s vision further into focus and helped create practical plans revolving around impact accountability, board and staff fundraising, and professional development.
Recently, Lucke was even selected as a 2023 Aspen Institute Healthy Communities fellow. The nationwide fellowship aims to coach and equip local leaders to drive change in their communities.
Today, Gardopia Gardens has two full-time staff, including Lucke, and 15 part-time garden stewards and educators. Lucke even hopes they’ll someday own the property that the nonprofit’s headquarters is on.
“We would really like to purchase the property,” Lucke said. “When we first got there in 2015, it was worth $34,000. Then it doubled to $80,000. This year it jumped to $200,000.” Over the last 8 years, Gardopia has struggled to raise the capital to purchase the property, but they recently put in a grant application for $150,000 and are raising a capital campaign to get close to the $200,000 goal by the end of the year.
Lucke hopes to use the new outdoor kitchen being installed at Gardopia’s headquarters to host fun (and healthy!) fundraising dinners, but also free community dinners once a month with local chefs using the space for healthy cooking demonstrations.