Sunday, September 6, 2009

Community Service

This year I have been fairly active in a group of people trying to increase the growth and use of locally produced foods in the Big Stone Lake area. Through this work I have met a great number of great folks who are passionate about food and community health. Two of these folks, John and Carol S., have lived here only two years but have already made a big impression. Beginning last year, they began working with the city of Graceville to build several community gardens in town. Recently I was able to take a tour of the gardens, and listen to John and Carol speak of their experience.

Shortly after they moved to the area, John and Carol contacted the local high school and talked to one of the teachers about building a school garden. High School students would help prepare the site, plant, mulch, weed and harvest the vegetables. The vegetables themselves would be given to the local nursing home. Not only would the students learn about gardening, but they would also learn about community service. The teacher thought it was a pretty good idea. So did the nursing home. The city thought so too, and offered the use of an abandoned residential lot across the street from the school.

The garden uses grass clippings for mulch. The clippings are collected by the city's lawn mowers as they mow the parks and municipal properties. The grass clippings do a great job of suppressing weeds and conserving water, and provide a well-balanced fertilizer for the soil. Most of the seeds were donated by local gardeners and nurseries. No chemicals are used, and there is no mechanical tilling that might upset soil structure. Everything is done by hand, and the vegetative waste is composted in the barrel-thing shown in the first photo.

John and Carol also helped to build a few smaller gardens elsewhere in the city. The picture above shows the garden near the nursing home. These gardens are intended for food and for enjoyment by the residents.

The high school shop class built several elevated planters for the nursing home garden. These planters allow people in wheel chairs to still be able to 'get their hands dirty' pulling weeds and caring for the plants. The bottom of the planters have a sloped drainage plate, allowing water to drain down onto the grass, rather than onto the sidewalk.

It's really amazing what just a small number of passionate, motivated people can do to make their community a better place to live. Amazing, and inspiring.


Maple Lawn Farm said...

What an awesome community project! Thanks for sharing!


miSz tUna said...

Oh yeah, so amazing!

Erin said...

That is wonderful! We have nothing like it in the area here, and I have really been wanting to start some type of accessible garden here for disabled/elderly people. It has been proven to be very therapeutic. I am hoping that through the Master Gardener program, I can generate some interest and be able to do something!

Jo said...

Hi Tammy! Yes, it was awesome. Good to hear from you.

And from you too, Hazwani!

Howdy Erin -- I hope you share your experiences with the Master Gardener training on your blog. I'm curious to learn more!