UFTE Connects with a Couple Community Gardens

The definition of a community garden can vary greatly. The only constant seems to be that it is a garden in a community. How it is managed, and its functions are variables as seen in these two articles. Up From the Earth would like to think another constant is that they are of great value to the community and serving members of our local area.

Growing Spirits and Sprouts by Cindy Feeser; Garden Manager, Jerry Logemann

Growing Spirits and Sprouts Community Garden was organized in September 2014. Six committee members sought a location to begin the garden project. A cooperative agreement was set up with Embassy Tower nursing home for a plot of land to start the garden. The original plan was to share produce with the members of four local churches. In the last few years, churches’ interests have waned, so produce is picked by committee members and left in several area businesses for Sergeant Bluff residents to use. We have been blessed to have the help of Mr. Hensley’s 7th grade classes to assist us in preparing, planting, and fall clean-up. We enjoy working with the youth and hope that we can plant “the gardening seed” in the next generation.

The second desire for having the garden on the nursing home property was to be able to share proceeds and interests with the residents of Embassy Tower. Residents can move about the garden area by walking or using wheelchairs. There is also a special area at the back side of the large garden where residents can get close to gardening in their own flower bed.

As any gardener can tell you, the garden takes a lot of work and doesn’t come without a side of frustration from time to time. The rabbits feel we are furnishing a salad buffet, but we persist and enjoy a good harvest to share with our community.

Siouxland Community Health Center Garden by LaVone Sopher, Garden Manager

In 2021 a community garden was started for the Siouxland Community Health Center to provide fresh produce to individuals and families with food insecurity by La Vone Sopher, Master Gardener. Grant funding from the Iowa State Extension program, “Growing Together” and Iowa Total Care were used to purchase materials and soil for the raised garden beds and gardening tools. The Community Health Center has also contributed to the purchase of gardening supplies. In 2022, two additional raised beds were added. 

The garden is entirely organic with no chemicals used. Many of the plants are grown from seed, starting in March. We focus on growing vegetables with longer storage times such as tomatoes, peppers, summer and winter squash, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. All produce is weighed before being distributed. In 2021, the garden netted a harvest of 437 pounds of vegetables, and 862 pounds in 2022. 

Garden volunteers assist with planting, maintenance (watering and weeding), harvest, and clean up through the gardening season. Dale Jacques, also a Master Gardener, assisted in 2022. Lauren (2 years) and Juliet (1 year) Bainbridge are Heelan students who also assisted La Vone Sopher.

After completing the 2022 garden season, the garden beds were moved to the South Sioux Clinic site to accommodate the expansion of needed parking. There is room to expand the garden, as the site is quite large. Garden produce will be transported to the Sioux City clinic and distributed to those in need. 

There is a second garden supported by Dakota Voices for Food and its harvest is given to clients at the South Sioux City Community Health Center site.

Up From the Earth is a 100% volunteer organization working to increase food security in Woodbury County and the surrounding area.

Randy Burnight, an ISU Extension Woodbury County Master Gardener, facilitates numerous other gardeners as well as collection sites which get fresh produce during the growing season into the food pantry system and thereby into the hands of those in need. Community Garden projects such as the two highlighted above are important parts of this growing food system supporting our citizens.

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