I had the opportunity to sit down with April Pandora of Eden Urban Gardens. April chose to begin an urban garden following a vision from God guiding her toward it. She left her health field career of 15 years to follow her calling. Having no formal experience in farming, April enrolled part-time in the sustainable agriculture program at Cincinnati State. Seeking a formal education was important to April as it served as a demonstration of the commitment she had to urban farming. While enrolled, she picked up jobs at other local farms to gain hands on experience, in addition to help pay for her schooling. Working on rural farms, April realized that an urban farm/garden had different and unique needs.
April’s vision for an urban garden went without a proper name until it came to her during a meditation session. The word Eden came to her, as it is the first garden referenced in Genesis. In 2016, with three hand tools and a vision, Eden Urban Garden first began in Pleasant Ridge, now fondly referred to as “Field A”. Later, “Field B: was started as a leased space in Spring Grove. With the dependency farmers’ have on the land, April decided that owning the land would allow her to put down more roots, both literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, buying the current leased plot was not an option. Subsequently, April begin what ended up being a two-year search for a permanent location. She needed the new location to be within 15 minutes of the existing Pleasant Ridge location to maintain efficiency, sustainability, and to be able to continue to serve the communities she was already vested in. The search was much more difficult than expected with many deals falling through, running into many hurdles regarding locality regulations, and urban land prices hindering her purchasing power. At last, she found a piece of land in Avondale coming up for auction. April attended with an exact budget in place, and after back taxes, court fees, and the cost of water hydrant installation-Eden Garden’s new location was realized.
Although the land procurement was daunting, April’s ever-positive outlook on the Cincinnati community influenced her to help others following the same path. Through her experiences of securing land and her experience of partnering with various neighborhood and city organizations, she has begun creating a report aimed to benefit future urban farms. April, along with other like-minded organizations that she worked with along the way, discovered gray areas that needed to be defined to help urban farmers succeed in Cincinnati. Her report will help fill in the gaps for all parties moving forward. April’s creation of an urban garden was important to her as it fosters a direct relationship of residential communities to their food source.
Because the gardens are in residential areas, Eden Urban Garden is not able to sell on site. April does not perceive this as a negative, as she loves the idea of Eden Urban Garden being a silent green neighbor that supports the community. An important factor to choosing the location was to increase access of quality foods to neighbors that lacked in the resource. Customer service and community engagement are critical facets of the business for April. While visiting the new location, April greeted neighbors by name, and relished in the sharing of stories and explaining the business to those as they stopped by.
The majority of Eden Urban Garden (EUG) products are sold directly to consumers within the immediate communities. EUG offers a Healthy Bounty Bag CSA Share, in which Shareholders receive their deliveries directly to their door. A vast variety of herbs, leafy vegetables, non-leafy vegetables, and fruits are grown and offered by EUG. In addition to the assortment offered by Eden Urban Garden, they also partner with other local farmers to offer additional products. Produce, houseplants, and non-food items such as catnip toys from EUG can be purchased at two farmers’ markets within Cincinnati: Pleasant Ridge Tailgate and Norwood Market. Furthermore, April works with Local Food Connection to distribute to restaurants. As for the future, April plans to offer fruit from newly planted cherry, peach trees, and berry bushes. A non-food product that April is particularly excited about offering in the future is pussy willow from her family’s third-generation tree.
April describes the experience of creating and maintaining the urban garden as challenging, but the rewards and benefits highly exceed the challenges. She credits her successes to having faith, patience, persistence, and to a lot of hard work. April is currently working to have the Eden Urban Garden USDA organic certified and to expand her land. For now, it seems that the future opportunities for EUG and April are endless.
Haley Shutter moved to the Cincinnati area from southern Wisconsin, near Madison with her husband Chase. Professionally, she has worked as a director of a childcare center, developing the nutrition and children’s garden programs. She is currently working toward her graduate degree in Public Health Education and Promotion at the University of Cincinnati. Haley also works at a local brewery coordinating charitable contributions and events. Her passions and hobbies include: gardening, cooking, and traveling.