Community Garden Grows Produce for Area Food Shelves
Community Garden Open for Business
By Joe Steck – Mankato Times
Volunteers were busy this weekend preparing the soil and planting seeds and starter plants at the Blue Earth County Community Farm.
The community farm is located next to Weagel Park in Mankato and will be managed by new community farm manager Andrew Hermanson. Andrew is a Sibley East and the University of Minnesota majoring in Horticulture.
“I was hired last week and had to get organized and figure out what is here and what is needed and put a plan together,” said Hermanson “We are putting in transplants today aw well as starter seeds. We have yellow wax beans, green beans, peas, radishes, beets, carrots and lettuce.”
The plants and seeds for the garden were donated by Drummers Garden Center with the mature crops going to the Salvation Army and the ECHO Food Shelf.
“We picked up transplants from Drummers Garden Center this morning,” he said “They grew them specifically for us. They also donate all of the seeds which we will use.”
Besides a new director, the community garden has added an onsite well.
“This is the 3rd season, and the first season with water, thanks to the Bike Walk Advocates and some other community members,” said Blue Earth County Communications Manager & Business Analyst Jessica Beyers “Having the water as a resource is huge. We now have water at Weigel Park and the red jacket trail.”
The farm works well because of the many volunteers who work the garden. A surprise volunteer on Saturday was Rachael Minnery who is from Seattle, Washingon. Minnery came visit friends in Mankato for the weekend after attending an American Institute of Architects conference in the cities.
“I like the idea of getting out and having some direct contact with the food I eat, even though I won’t be here past the weekend,” Minnery said “I want to have a better understanding of the food before it sits on my plate. I think having that knowledge will help me appreciate the nutritious food I get to eat.”
Local volunteers have set dates and times when their help is needed. Helpers will be doing weeding and then harvesting within the month since lettuce, peas and beans come up really fast.
“We have a set volunteer day from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Wednesday weather permitting,” Hermanson said “During harvest season we will need more help, but it will be here and there.”
The U of M extension service helps out with a sampling station and provide nutritional recipes based on produce which is grown on the farm available at the food shelf.
“What ever produce we have available be it peppers, tomatoes, squash, they put together nutritious recipes so they know how to make it at home.” Says Beyers
They University extension service also do cooking demonstrations.
“We also have special groups come out where we educate kids on producing vegetables,” said Beyers “We also have companies come out such as Verizon Wireless, for group volunteering.”
The farm also has a drip irrigation, which will soon be set up and make it easier to grow the vegetables and herbs.
“This is a great community project and the county is proud to have the land available to provide fresh produce for the local hunger assistance programs,” Said Beyers “It has been rewarding to see people come out here and volunteer.”
In 2013 there were over 28 different vegetable crops grown at the community farm and in the last two years donated more than seven thousand pounds of fresh produce thanks to the help of the many volunteers.
To learn more about the community farm and how you can help, visit their web page at http://www.feedingourcommunitiespartners.org/community-farm.html or their facebook page.