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Minnesota: Community garden closed as city reaffirms support

  • Subject: [cg] Minnesota: Community garden closed as city reaffirms support
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2006 20:51:37 -0700 (PDT)

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minnesota
Aug. 19, 2006	

Green thumbs -
Tour set to showcase the nature of area community
Master Gardener, U of Minn Coop Extension

The worst fear of community gardeners is that the land
they've worked and come to love will be taken for a
different use. That's what happened this year to
people who grew vegetables and flowers at Farm in the
City's big Jimmy Lee garden at the corner of Lexington
and Concordia avenues in St. Paul.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department plans to
build soccer, football and baseball fields on the land
by 2008, according to city parks director Bob
Bierscheid. First, it's building a large addition on
the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center north of the garden.
But moving the garden doesn't mean city support is

"We want to expand both vegetable and floral gardens;
they're part of Blooming St. Paul," says Bierscheid.
"Mayor (Chris) Coleman has asked us to keep moving on
it, and there's money in the 2007 budget for the
gardening program."

In April, the parks department helped move the
community garden two blocks west to public land at
North Griggs Street and Concordia Avenue. It relocated
trees, removed grass, tilled the soil and installed
water mains. Renamed Dunning Community Garden, the
garden has 80 individual plots that people can rent
for $10. Together with the nearby Farm in the City
Children's Garden, it's on today's Parade of Community
Gardens (see box for details).

Lam Le, a farmer who emigrated from Vietnam 10 years
ago, was watering a thriving patch of squash when I
visited last week. Le, who lives in a nearby high-rise
apartment, says he likes to farm and grows food for
himself, his children and grandchildren. Besides
leeks, melons, squash and white radishes, he's growing
Vietnamese cucumbers, which are much larger than the
ones usually grown here.

Larrie Peterson was harvesting corn  not just any
corn, but 'Kandy Korn,' a hybrid sweet corn.

"It's the best corn ever made," says Peterson, a St.
Paul resident who used to farm in Hayfield in southern
Minnesota. "You know how to cook sweet corn?" he
asked. "You put the corn in cold water and when it
starts boiling, it's done. Then right to the table."

Peterson, who's also growing tomatoes, melons,
cabbage, peppers and onions, says he gives away much
of his produce. He shared some 'Kandy Korn,' which I
cooked by his method. Tender, sweet, delicious!

The garden brings together people from many
backgrounds and ethnic groups, says Martha Benda,
acting director of Farm in the City. Included are a
young woman who has introduced her little sister from
Big Brothers/Big Sisters to gardening, a couple
struggling with unemployment and underemployment, and
a senior citizen who lost his garden when he moved to
a high-rise. There's a Roman Catholic nun, a high
school student and her mother and a couple expecting a
baby who want affordable organic food. Two plots are
worked by inner-city children participating in Arts
Us, a program combining arts and gardening.

Like the old garden, this one's strictly organic,
meaning gardeners are not allowed to use chemical
fertilizers or pesticides. The soil was heavily
amended with a blend of compost, sand and black dirt
before planting. To help control insect pests,
children in the Farm in the City summer program
release ladybugs.

Farm in the City is a nonprofit agency that operates
five organic gardens in the heart of St. Paul. Besides
the Dunning and children's gardens, there's a
labyrinth on the adjacent Concordia University campus,
a farm garden near Hamline Avenue and Interstate 94
and a community garden at Highland Park High School.
Last year, the 10-year-old organization won two awards
for community vegetable gardening: a Golden Bloom
Award from the city and the St. Paul Garden Club award
from the Minnesota State Horticultural Society.

In the farm garden, gardeners grow small fruits, herbs
and vegetables for Farm in the City's
community-supported agriculture program. People in the
community buy shares in the organic garden and receive
a box of vegetables and flowers weekly. Among the
gardeners is a group of deaf Hmong men. Kor Thor, who
has a slight hearing impairment, helps the men
communicate with others. The men also have plots in
the community garden.

"You can tell their gardens," says Benda. "They build
trellises of scrap wood and sticks for their cucumbers
and beans. They tend to have a gully in the middle. It
creates a raised bed, which helps with drainage and
makes it easy to get at their plants."

While I was visiting, Kor Thor brought his two little
girls to the children's garden behind Dunning
Recreation Center. The garden is designed to instruct
and delight with native perennials, plants that
attract birds, herbs, fruits and a plot with
vegetables for salads.

The children's garden is integral to Farm in the
City's summer programs for kids. There's a culinary
camp where kids learn the connection between the soil,
the food they grow and what they cook and eat. A photo
camp emphasizes nature photography, and a program
called Harvesting the Imagination combines art,
gardening, cooking and environmental stewardship.

"One of our gardeners says community gardening calms a
neighborhood," Benda comments. "Studies have shown
community gardening helps bring down crime. It's
partly because there are people in the neighborhood
day and evening. The garden makes the neighborhood
more beautiful, and residents walking past see people
of different ethnic backgrounds together. It's a
meaningful and natural way to bring people together."

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your subscription:  https://secure.mallorn.com/mailman/listinfo/community_garden

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