By Cindy Naas
Recently I was invited to help create a large community garden on the campus of the Sabes JCC in the Minneapolis area.
I’m going to blog about each step of the process.
My hope is that some of you will use this information to go out into your own communities and create urban gardens which will benefit so many people.
This is the third year for some sort of garden at the JCC. The first garden was built with grant money. They had a large greenhouse, an outdoor garden and even staff to oversee the building and tending of the garden. Year 2 saw the grant money dry up, and with not enough workers the garden didn’t do well. This year the garden will be done on a shoestring budget, but my hope is to not only plan a large productive vegetable garden but to make it a sustainable project as well.
One of the ideas suggested for making this garden truly sustainable is to make sure it is exciting to those who visit the JCC. There is a large senior population who frequent this site daily and many of them have prior gardening experience in their country of origin. I am hoping they will agree to share their love of gardening with the volunteers we are assembling for the garden.
There is also a day school on the premises, and this garden can give the children numerous educational experiences. My hope is that the children will be presented with interesting additions to their curricula, making this garden something they can be proud of and look forward to working in year after year. Children have an instinctive love for nature and being out of doors, and this garden can teach them about many topics, from global hunger to how food is produced to how local food banks work. I really hope the children in this center will be able to feel like they are part owners of this wonderful space.
The JCC has partnered with a fantastic charity. The founder of eQuality: Pathways To Potential trains adults with mental disabilities to work in urban farming and other agriculture jobs. eQuality will be starting seeds for this garden, and some of its workers will be helping in maintaining the garden during the entire growing season. At our meeting last week, it was decided that all seedlings will be grown by eQuality, and we made a list of seeds which need to be started early and those which can be direct-seeded after last frost.
After that, we will begin recruiting our volunteers to help build the raised beds, spread compost and plant up the garden. With so many groups helping to work on this, the garden at the Sabes JCC is going to be a beautiful place for all who visit.