Toledo Talks Growth — of Town and Plants Alike — at Annual ‘Big Meeting’


Vegetables, city limits, educational programs: they’re all growing in Toledo. 

Even the kids are growing plants, through the “Toledo Learning Garden” greenhouse at the elementary school, run by President Brooke Acosta.

At the South Lewis County city’s annual “Big Meeting,” members of various community groups presented their offerings, asked for volunteers and praised the cheese town’s accomplishments in the Toledo Middle School cafeteria Thursday night.

With an urban growth area annexation and a 97-plot housing development all in the works for the city, Mayor Pro-tem Eric Hayes and Planning Commissioner Steve Berch talked about hopes for the town to manage growth responsibly. 

“You can manage your growth or growth will manage you,” Berch said.

Hayes added, “We’ve been working with the school district and the fire district and other public services to make sure that we have what we need to accommodate this additional growth and that new construction pays their fair share.”

Attendees also heard from Acosta, who spoke about the Toledo Learning Garden’s various educational opportunities, including garden science programs and clubs for elementary school students. Through the work, the kids get to take home food they helped grow.

Along a similar thread, Amber Buck, president of the Toledo Neighbors Program, shared an update on the food-bank-esque nonprofit, which connects local growers with people experiencing food insecurity, limited mobility and/or limited access to fresh produce.

Every Sunday, the program sees between 120 and 140 people come to collect food, Buck said, which means between 300 and 400 people are receiving food through the program when their full households are counted. The Neighbors Program also runs donations of holiday meals, hats, toys and other items.

Through a partnership between the Neighbors Program and the Learning Garden, Toledo-area residents have been able to receive seeds and lessons in gardening. 

“We need lots of helping hands, lots of volunteers,” Buck said Thursday.

Martin Huffman, principal of Toledo High School also spoke to the Big Meeting’s big crowd, talking about each of the district’s three schools. 

At the elementary school, as Acosta spoke to, the gardening school has been a huge success. Huffman also talked about the school’s efforts to highlight career opportunities through a program they call “Second Grade Safari.”

At the middle school, three new teachers have been settling in as students have seen expanded opportunities for coding and robotics. The middle school’s Knowledge Bowl season is underway, Huffman said, and many of the older students are taking part in high school athletics programs.

At the high school, Huffman said, the YWCA has been hosting a talk series on challenging social topics such as “gender and understanding LGBTQ+,” anti-racism, body positivity and having healthy relationships.

“This is all voluntary,” Huffman said, adding, “It’s pretty anonymous and low-key. The kids have really responded well to that.”

For more information on the Big Meeting, head to The Toledo Learning Garden has a Facebook page at and more information on the Neighbors Program can be found at 

For more coverage on the housing development and annexation, visit