The Akron Zoo and Hattie Larlham are announced a newly formed partnership, Hattie’s Gardens at the Akron Zoo.

Hattie’s Gardens will transform two acres of unused land at the Akron Zoo into sustainable gardens that grow chemical-free produce for Akron and Northeast Ohio residents. The partnership will focus on making healthy eating possible through accessibility, affordability and environmental responsibility. Hattie’s Gardens is a Hattie Larlham vocational program that employs adults with developmental disabilities. The garden site project will begin in April for the 2014 growing season. A community celebration is planned for the end of June.

Hattie’s Gardens at the Akron Zoo is a partnership dedicated to the health and environment of the community. In addition to supplying food for local residents, fresh produce will be supplied to the Akron Zoo’s Komodo Kingdom Café for its visitors. The café is certified by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) and is the first 4-star, green-certified restaurant in any zoo or aquarium in North America.

"I'm thrilled with our partnership with the Akron Zoo," said Dotty Grexa, Hattie Larlham vice president of vocational and enterprise services. "It will allow us to apply what we've learned at our two Hattie’s Gardens locations to an urban setting where we can be part of the neighborhood community."

Local residents will have access to affordable fresh produce to encourage healthy eating. Hattie’s Gardens will open a farm stand on the corner of Copley Road and Edgewood Avenue where residents will have access to produce in the late spring. Zoo members and visitors will receive a discount on produce. The location achieves the zoo’s goal of creating affordable, fresh produce within a food desert. A food desert is a geographic area where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to obtain. With this addition, area residents will now have an option within walking distance to purchase fresh produce. Producing and purchasing locally reduces the use of fossil fuels, lowering costs and benefitting the environment. Hattie’s Gardens at the Akron Zoo plans to share healthy recipes and tips for preparing its produce.

"We are excited to collaborate on such a unique project with a first-class organization like Hattie Larlham that will benefit our community," said L. Patricia Simmons, president and CEO of the Akron Zoo. "Our neighbors will be able to take advantage of affordable and healthy food options and our visitors will be able to enjoy this locally-grown food in our 4-star, green-certified restaurant, Komodo Kingdom Café."

"Being able to provide fresh produce to the community and sharing nutritional information is a privilege for our team," said Grexa.

Hattie’s Gardens at the Akron Zoo is located at 389 Edgewood Avenue, Akron, Ohio 44307. The gardens will be outside the zoo perimeter fence, but on adjacent property owned by the zoo.

About Hattie’s Gardens

Hattie’s Gardens is a sustainable agriculture garden that grows chemical-free produce for Akron and Northeast Ohio residents. It is a Hattie Larlham vocational program that employs adults with developmental disabilities. Hattie’s Gardens is certified by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) that certifies farmers under the national standards of the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP). Hattie’s Gardens has locations at Crown Point Ecology Center and Old Trail School in Bath, Ohio. Learn more at: