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Frequent Questions

About CFI

Have you ever had a question and didn’t know where to find the answer? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

This section is a compilation of answers to the questions most commonly asked by our constituents. Just start by following one of the links below. If you can’t find the question you wanted to ask, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Food Terminology

General Information

Ways to Become Involved

Donation Station & Discovery Kitchen

Community Gardens & Orchards

Gardening & Food Preservation Workshops

Plant & Seed Giveaways

School Gardens

YEAH! Kids

Ridge & Hollow Seed Alliance

Food Terminology

  • Food Insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. (US Department of Agriculture)

  • Accessibility to sources of healthy food, as measured by distance to a store or by the number of stores in an area as well as individual-level resources that may affect accessibility, such as family income or vehicle availability and public transportation. (US Department of Agriculture)

  • Food Justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals. (

  • Seed Sovereignty reclaims seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good. The farmer’s rights to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. (Lexicon of Food)

  • Local

    Our definition of local food refers to food that is grown near where it’s purchased and consumed, thus reducing transportation and processing costs, increasing food nutrition retention, and strengthening relationships and accountability between food producers and consumers.

  • The U.S. Census Bureau defines poverty in terms of income and family size. For example, in 2015, a single adult under 65 years old with an annual income at or below $12,331 is considered living in poverty. (U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Calling your organization a Nonprofit focuses the world’s attention on a particular inconsequential aspect of your being – the financial means that allow your work to be accomplished. Calling your organization a Social/Community Benefit Organization declares to the world your primary purpose – to provide benefit to the community. (Hildy Gottlieb)

General Information

  • Not everyone in the Southeast Ohio community has access to healthy and affordable food. Community Food Initiatives works to address this problem. We strengthen the region with our focus on gardening, skill building, and feeding those in need.

  • We are located in the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) at 94 Columbus Rd, Athens Ohio, 45701. Our offices are in the first hallway of Building C, of which is located closest to the road.

  • What counties do CFI currently serve in Southeast Ohio?

    Athens, Morgan, Vinton, Washington, and Meigs

Ways to Become Involved

  • By becoming a member of Community Food Initiatives you are supporting increased access to fresh, nutritious food in Appalachia Ohio. Membership Includes:
    - Regular e-newsletters
    - Free entry to all CFI workshops
    - Community garden plot option
    - Annual Member Meeting voting privileges

  • An annual membership costs $25 per individual, and $50 per family.

    To pay online, please follow the above link. You can also choose to pay by mailing cash or check and a membership form to our address: 94 Columbus Rd, Athens OH 45701.

  • Yes you can! Volunteer opportunities include contributing to maintaining our community and school gardens, gathering food donations, preparing produce for distribution, teaching at workshops, and serving on our Board of Directors. Whatever your interests or skills, we’ll find a meaningful place for you to participate in making our communities and people more resilient and food secure. Please fill out a Volunteer Interest Form online if you are interested in volunteering for us. Call 740.593.5971 or email for more information.

  • Yes! Large volunteer groups are, for example, perfect for garden work parties from early Spring to late Fall, helping to turn compost, maintain pathways, and attend to the Donation Station Garden plots. Have ideas or looking for a service project? Talk to us! Please call 740.593.5971 or email for more information.

Donation Station & Discovery Kitchen

  • We work like a food bank as a hub for pantries to receive food for the people they serve .Because we supply food specifically for organizations and programs, individuals do not independently pick up their own food from the Donation Station. The Community Food Initiatives website resource page provides links for individuals seeking food pantries or free meals in their community. CFI'S SEO FOODLINK Map can help individuals identify food pantries and free meal programs in their area.

  • The Donation Station operates in some ways like a food bank, we distribute fresh produce and locally-made food products to regional food assistance programs that then then distribute it to their clients in need. Each pantry has their own guidelines to determine who is is eligible to receive the food, but generally those living at or below the poverty level can receive food assistance.

  • We work with our partners to ensure people receiving Donation Station food are well informed about how to use the food provided. This includes offering our Discovery Kitchen program, which provides cooking workshops and tastings for our distribution partners as well as for other partner organizations, like the library or universities. We also provide our partner agencies with hard copies of recipes and cookbooks, and make recipes and cooking tips available online through Discovery Kitchen blog posts.

  • CFI accepts foods grown or produced in SE Ohio. For example, we love donations of produce from home gardens, community and school gardens, Athens Farmers Market, Chesterhill Produce Auction. We also happily accept items from or local food businesses such as Crumb’s Bakery and Vino De Milo. We also accept donations of local meat, eggs, and cheese. Any donations of meat need to be processed/cleaned and packaged.

  • What is Discovery Kitchen?

    Discovery Kitchen is the educational component of the Donation Station Program. We offer healthy cooking workshops and tasting tables to food pantry partners and other agency partners. These workshops and tasting events celebrate one of the region's strongest assets by highlighting seasonal, regionally grown ingredients. This not only ensures that individuals know how to use DS produce, but also conveys the importance of supporting local agriculture using seasonal ingredients.

  • YES — attend any of our workshops that are at public venues! Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, or check our calendar to find out when Discovery Kitchens are happening.

  • The CFI Donation Station is a one-of-a-kind program that supports the local food economy while addressing food insecurity and hunger. It fills a critical need and strengthens community resilience, working holistically to improve the fundamental health of a community. We are now offering our expertise to develop Donation Station programs in other communities so that you too can be a part of the local food solution. Please speak to the Donation Station Regional Developer.

  • * Grow-A-Row — If you have a garden at home, set aside a row to donate to the Donation Station and drop the fresh produce off at the Athens Farmers Market once it’s ready to harvest. We even have free Grow-A-Row signs available at market for you to display in your garden.

    * Harvest Hotline — Don’t let nutritious food go to waste! The Harvest Hotline is a service for farmers and gardeners who have excess crops in their fields and would like to donate them to our Donation Station. Whatever the reason for your extra produce, let us volunteer to do some harvesting and gleaning for a good cause.

    * Volunteer opportunities are always available and and include collecting food donations at market or helping with distribution, Discovery Kitchens, or other Donation Station events. Please fill out a Volunteer Interest Form online if you are interested in volunteering for us. Call 740.593.5971 or email for more information.

    * Drop a dollar in the fishbowl on market days — it can be as simple as that!

Community Gardens & Orchards

  • We have community gardens in Athens: Southside (located at Carriage Hill) and Eastside (located behind the ES Dog Park), Glouster (located beside HAPCAP/Police Dept), Nelsonville (Mary Hill Health Center), and Chauncey (right next to the Library)

    CFI also works with the Athens Metropolitan Housing Authority to support gardening for residents at Hope Drive and Blue Line Drive.

  • You choose the location that is most convenient for you. If spots are not available, you may add your request to our waiting list until a plot opens up.

  • CFI has a gardener agreement that clarifies garden rules and responsibilities. CFI Membership ($25) includes an option for a community garden plot, so all of our gardeners are members. For low-income gardeners, there is a fee-waiver.

  • People like to garden with CFI because we provide tools, water, and space. Many also find that gardening in groups provides a sense of community, knowledge sharing, and accountability. Don't get us wrong . . . gardening at home is great, too!

  • The Westside Gardens are managed independently. To reserve a plot there, please contact Kathy White

  • Visit the resource page on the CFI website for links and information to answer questions on gardening plans, organic pest and disease control, season extension, and much more!

    The OSU Extension Office is a wonderful and informative resource. The Athens Master Gardener program provides a Master Gardener class each year that provides an in-depth understanding of gardening and orchard care. During the Summer on Saturdays, they can answer questions at their Athens Farmers Market booth.

  • CFI does not have a tiller available for community use. In our community garden we follow the OSU Extension Office recommendations for minimal tilling practices, as frequent tilling can be damaging to soil and microbial communities. If you are a member of one of the community gardens and need assistance with your plot, please contact the community garden coordinator.

  • CFI does not have tools available for community use, however, community garden members do have access to the tools provided by CFI in their tool shed. For personal garden tool use, check out the ReUse Industries Community Tool Library.

  • CFI does not do soil samples for gardeners. However, you can attain a soil sample by contacting the OSU Extension Office They will talk you through the steps and send the samples off for testing. CFI does periodically do soil testing in the community gardens.

    Contact us at or 740.593.5971 if you would like the most recent results or recommendations on how to amend your soil.

  • CFI provides maintenance on public fruit tree plantings in the City of Athens in order to provide the community more opportunities to enjoy fresh, healthy food. As these trees grow, the Donation Station will harvest and distribute the fruits to area food pantries. If you are interested in helping CFI with orchard maintenance or harvesting, please contact CFI at There is an online map of orchard locations.

Gardening & Food Preservation Workshops

  • No – we typically do not require an RSVP for workshops. There are some exceptions for workshops with limited space, in which case we will make that information known. Workshops are a $5 donation for the general public and free to all CFI members, community gardeners (including Westside!), and COMCorps.

  • We cover a range of workshop topics on anything related to organic gardening, food preparation and preservation. Workshops are peer to peer, so we recruit community members to host.

    Please contact CFI’s Community Garden Coordinator at with any ideas for topics or interest in leading a workshop.

Plant & Seed Giveaways

  • CFI has a few different annual giveaways to promote growing and sharing the harvest: seed potatoes, seeds, and plant starts. All of these typically happen from early to late spring. Check out our calendar from March-May to learn more.

    Seed Potato Giveaway: Takes place at the end of March each year, near St. Patrick’s Day. We distribute thousands of pounds of seed potatoes from our ACEnet location in Athens, Ohio.

    Seed Giveaways: This giveaway takes place in April, also from our ACENet location, during the week of Earth Day. After the first week of the giveaway, we make seeds available at all Athens Public Library branches.

    Plant Start Giveaway: This giveaway takes place in May, near Mother’s Day and the last frost date. During this giveaway we mostly distribute tomato plants, and include other vegetable and herb starts depending on donations. Our plant start giveaway happens at three different locations and times all in one day in an effort to make the plants easily accessible. Past locations have included HAPCAP, Jobs and Family Services, and ACEnet. Check our website and watch Facebook to confirm locations and times when spring arrives!

  • The seed exchanges are events hosted by CFI’s Southeast Ohio Seed Savers Network, giving local seed savers the opportunity to trade, sell, and give away open pollinated seeds (typically of heirloom and heritage varieties) with each other and the general public. The Seed Exchanges take place annually in mid- February and mid-March.

    The seed giveaways take place annually in mid-April and are comprised of donated seed packets from a variety of organic and conventional seed companies. Not all the seeds are organic and the majority of seeds are hybrids. As is true for all our giveaway events, all seeds are free and available to anyone.

School Gardens

  • We can guide you through the process of developing a solid plan for success. This includes going through a school garden assessment and developing seasonal planting plans. Our availability is limited due to personnel capacity, so at this time we can only support gardens in Athens County and neighboring counties.

  • Our School Garden Coordinator supports school gardens through resource and technical support. We can provide school garden best practices, tool, material and funding resources, provide garden care recommendation and can conduct an on-site orientation upon availability. For teachers, CFI annually provides opportunities for Professional Development related to school gardens. We offer on-site garden lessons through direct service teaching. We also have annual seed and plant start giveaways.

  • Community Food Initiatives believes that school gardens are most successful when the school, parents, and students have ownership and responsibility for its care and usage. Our School Garden Program provides informational resources, technical support, professional development and direct teaching opportunities.

  • Communication is key when you are planning on planting, harvesting, or making any changes in the school garden, as many are shared spaces. Each school garden has a primary contact that acts as a liaison with CFI’s School Garden Coordinator to help ensure clear communication and planning.

  • Each school is unique in what they do with the produce grown in their garden. Ultimately, it is up to each school to decide the destination of their produce, but CFI suggests finding ways to utilize the food for the students or to help feed the community. Sometimes the kids harvest the food and use it for cooking projects, or will donate to a share table in the school for families to take home. During the summer months, usually whoever cares for the garden will get to take food that is ready home with them. If there is an excess it can be donated to the Donation Station where it can be distributed to a food pantry serving the school district.

  • Each school is unique in how they utilize their garden. Most use them for educational, therapeutic, and/or cooking purposes.

  • We can come out upon availability. Whether you are interested in direct service teaching or general help in the garden, it is ideal to schedule in advance for any weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly lesson, activity or check-in depending on your goals.

  • At this time, the School Garden Coordinator can offer direct teaching and garden education activities upon their availability. Contact us to schedule at, or by calling our office. We are currently working on developing an official School Garden curriculum packet that will meet testing standards. Once developed, this curriculum resource will be available for all to use free of cost.

YEAH! Kids

  • YEAH! stands for Youth Entrepreneurs At Hope. The YEAH Kids garden is located at Hope Drive Apartments and funded by the Athens Metropolitan Housing Board. The program coaches low-income youth between the ages of 11 and 18 in production gardening, culinary skills, money management, and professionalism. They sell their produce and food products at the Athens Farmers Market as a summer job experience.

  • The YEAH kids program is only for youth residents of Hope Drive Apartments.

  • The YEAH Kids vend at the Athens Farmers Market on Saturdays July-September each year. They have a production garden at Hope Drive, and grow a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables. Their food products, kimchi and sauerkraut, jams and baked goods, are produced at ACEnet’s Commercial Kitchen.

  • The total profits are divided monthly among all participants based on their number of work hours. The participants collectively make between $1,000-$1,2000 annually.

Ridge & Hollow Seed Alliance

  • Ridge & Hollow is dedicated to increasing food security for future generations by supporting the preservation of regionally adapted, open-pollinated seeds through partnerships with skilled seed savers living in our region.

  • Our company offers an alternative to large agribusiness by only purchasing and distributing seed from local seed savers, farmers, and plant breeders. Our seed business benefits the local economy by purchasing at fair prices from our growers and contributing to a strong local food system.

  • Our seeds are available at the following Athens locations: The Farmacy, White’s Mill and Village Bakery. Seeds are also available at seed related CFI workshops/events (i.e Paw Paw Festival).

  • Are the seeds organic? Organically modified?

    Our seeds are not certified organic. None of our seeds are genetically modified, all are open-pollinated varieties.

  • All of our seeds come from seed growers in the Central Appalachia. Currently all our growers are in Southeast Ohio.

  • We have a modest yet satisfying mix of vegetable, herb and flower seeds.

  • Open-pollinated seeds come from plants that are freely (hence open) pollinated be it by wind, insects, humans, or other natural forces. They are genetically diverse, adaptable and can be saved and replanted year after year–making them reliable, unique and cost efficient. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds that have been passed down for generations. All heirlooms are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated seeds are heirlooms. Commercially hybrid seed is the result of intentionally crossing pollen from 2 different plants to produce a plant with specific traits. These seeds cannot be saved and replanted. As a result of their short life, these seeds the least genetically diverse making them susceptible to climatic stressors.

  • For information on becoming a seed grower please contact Social Impact Coordinator, Alex Frantz at (740) 593-5971 or .

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