Community gardens strengthen neighborhoods
People around the world have been gardening since humans first developed a fondness for food. And vegetable gardening isn't much different whether you're Norwegian, German, Somali, Nigerian, Swedish, Burundi, Polish or Hispanic.What would happen ...
People around the world have been gardening since humans first developed a fondness for food. And vegetable gardening isn't much different whether you're Norwegian, German, Somali, Nigerian, Swedish, Burundi, Polish or Hispanic. What would happen if people from such diverse cultures came together to garden shoulder to shoulder? If you answered that the garden would be tremendous, you'd be correct. For 11 years, Fargo-Moorhead's Growing Together Community Gardens have successfully shown that people of diverse backgrounds can grow and harvest literally tons of vegetables divided among gardening participants, and any of us can enroll. Many of us are familiar with our cities' public garden spaces divided into plots and rented to individuals who tend and harvest their own separately marked space. Everyone has their own garden plot and does their own thing. But that's not the type of community garden we're exploring. This is different. The concept started in 2006 when members of Olivet Lutheran Church and Lewis and Clark Elementary School, both in Fargo, sought ways to help new Americans transition into the community. Nola Storm, a retired school social worker said it was no secret that many new Americans in Fargo felt isolated, lonely and scared, felt humiliated living on hand-outs and were traumatized by the conditions that made them leave their homelands. "They needed to get out in the community, do something meaningful for themselves and find friends," Nola said. "Why not in a community garden? Besides, many of them were gardeners in their homelands." Jack Wood soon became involved, and now he and Nola are lead program coordinators along with a core team including, Anita Hofsommer, Kathy Johnson, Nancy Allen and Mindy Grant. Growing Together Community Gardens aren't just for new Americans. These are truly community gardens. Anyone is invited to work and share the bounty by investing two to three hours a week - planting, hoeing weeds, watering and harvesting. There are no individual plots. Everyone shares the work and everyone shares the harvest. Each is one big garden, with everyone working together. There's no fee and no plants or seeds to purchase. Everything necessary is provided. Here's how it functions. Participants register for involvement with one of the gardens. Each garden runs on a regular schedule. Each garden's participants join together for two to three hours on a prescheduled day and time, signing in when they arrive. Volunteer organizers plan each week's gardening tasks, show what needs to be done and make sure everyone has necessary tools. When vegetables are ready for harvest, everyone joins in. Organizers coordinate distribution of shares, based on things like household size and hours contributed. Vegetables are enjoyed through the season and during the big fall harvest.
Last year, more than 300 individuals from 150 families participated plus 60 organizational volunteers. Together they harvested and shared more than 52,000 pounds of fresh vegetables, worth more than $65,000. Income to sustain the gardens comes from excess produce sold during the last four weeks of the growing season. Besides the gardens under the Growing Together umbrella, Jack, Nola and their team of organizers have a "Community Garden Tool Kit" that has helped other gardens start at Bennet Elementary School, Golden Ridge, New Life Center, Churches United for the Homeless, Nativity Catholic Church, Calvary Methodist Church, Brookdale Baptist Church and Shanley High School. In addition to the Fargo-Moorhead area, this year the Tool Kit will assist gardens in Bismarck, Grand Forks and Pelican Rapids. Here are the locations of the Fargo gardens and the times that participants will work in the garden in which they enroll: World Garden, 4215 19th Ave. S., Tuesday 1 to 3 p.m. LSS Garden, 3911 20th Ave. S., Tuesday 1 to 3 p.m. Community Homes Garden, 702 23rd St. S., Wednesday 4 to 6 p.m. Gathering Garden, 3910 25th St. S., Thursday 5 to 7 p.m. Catalyst Garden, 1800 21st Ave. S., Thursday 5 to 7 p.m. Registration day is Thursday, March 16. A potluck meal will be served at 5:30 with a meeting to follow. Registrants are encouraged to bring a food dish, fruit or dessert and sign up for the garden that bests suits their schedule. All are welcome, and no gardening experience is necessary. The meal and meeting will be held at Olivet Lutheran Church, 1330 S. University Dr., Fargo. For more information, contact Jack Wood: firstname.lastname@example.org Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at email@example.com. He also blogs at growingtogether.areavoices.com.