Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Jul-Aug 2016 issue

Two-Way Street: Does Your City Grow a Summer Community Garden?

Lindstrom Deputy Clerk Kathy GeorgeKATHY GEORGE
Deputy Clerk
Lindstrom (population 4,436)
The Lindstrom Community Garden was started in 2014 by Councilmember AnnMarie Brink and Police Officer Mike Merchelewitz after a citizen wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper promoting the idea. The resident saw a need and interest in the community, especially for people who live in apartments and don’t have space for their own garden.

A colorful addition
To get started, the city found and approved a good Lindstrom Community Gardenlocation for the garden—an empty lot only one block away from City Hall. The garden area is about 4,000 square feet. Plots are 144 square feet, and people can reserve them for $15 each. Seven plots were cultivated the first year—and all the flowers and plants really added a lot of color to the City Hall neighborhood!

Since then, interest and participation in the garden has steadily grown. In 2015, Councilmember Brink and Officer Merchelewitz handed leadership of the project over to a resident volunteer, Sue Kirchner, who just happens to be a certified master gardener. Residents grew plants and flowers in eight plots in 2015, and they’ve filled 17 plots this year. (Pictured at right are gardeners Tom Etchason, Sue Kirchner, AnnMarie Brink, and Mike Merchlewitz. Photo by Bachman’s Photography.)

Many donations and grants helped
The city has managed to secure several grants and donations to help cover the cost of the community garden. During the first year, the city received a state Partners in Healthy Living mini-grant (through the Statewide Health Improvement Program) for $500 to help with fencing. It also received $60 from U.S. Bank.

In 2015, grants included $50 from Kwik Trip, $300 from the Chisago Lakes Clergy Association, $500 from UnitedHealth Lindstrom Community GardenGroup, $500 from St. Croix Regional Medical Center, $1,000 from Partners in Healthy Living, and $500 from CenturyLink. Flowers, edging bricks, and other materials were also donated.

During the second year, grant funds were used to bring water to the site, complete fencing, and create a new “Growing Grant” program, making lots available to low-income individuals. In exchange for four hours of volunteer time, participants receive one plot and $35 in gift certificates to help them buy needed materials for the plot.

Making a difference
This project has been a great example of what a difference one or two people can make in their community, and how partnerships among citizens, government, and local stakeholders make Lindstrom a great place!

Kennedy City Clerk-Treasurer Mary M. CooneyMARY M. COONEY
City Clerk-Treasurer
Kennedy (population 190)
The Kennedy Community Garden, located in the heart of the city on U.S. Highway 75, features picnic tables, running water, benches, and a peaceful, natural environment open to all.

Making the most of an empty lot
The garden came to life in 2005, after one more building was demolished, leaving one more empty lot on our little city’s main street. The plan was that residents would take Kennedy Community Gardencare of the garden, and almost immediately people began to volunteer.

We laid out a path, added a couple of donated fences and benches, and planted trees and bushes that were purchased with dollars provided by local community groups. Quickly, donated plants began to appear at the corner of the new garden, and friends and neighbours stopped by to help plant the many daylilies, daisies, hollyhocks, peonies, and irises contributed by city and area residents. Thus, a community garden was born. But that isn’t the best part of the story.

A surprising twist
After a couple of years, many of the senior citizens who originally volunteered were no longer able to work in the garden, and a few residents found themselves spending many evenings and weekends trying to maintain the garden. It was during this time that some local youth started to show up, looking for someone to talk to or something to do. The adults were happy to oblige them, teaching them to mow, plant, water, and weed. From time to time, currency even changed hands providing the kids a little pocket money.

Youth summer project
By the end of the third summer, three local teenagers had come to view the garden as their summer job. Eventually, some of them moved on to other jobs, new kids joined Kennedy Green Team, youth who work in the Kennedy Community Gardenthe program, and over the garden’s life of 11 years, many summer jobs have been provided to local youth. Donations to the community garden usually provide enough money to pay the summer wages of the “Kennedy Green Team” (pictured at left).

More than flowers
So you see, the Community Garden isn’t just a bunch of flowers, but rather a source of pride, joy, and relaxation and a resource for our local youth. Who could have imagined?

Read the July-August 2016 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine.

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