Garden Club looking for supplies, support for community gardens

Follow us on Twitter at @AdTribNews


In full bloom, Yellow Medicine East Science instructor Steve Petrich envisions a collection of independently run gardens spread throughout area communities, where residents come together to cultivate better food and relationships. But like any good gardener knows, you first have to plant the seeds––and so it goes for the YME Garden Club.
Petrich has been working on the community garden initiative for a few years, running community garden plots for the past two in Hanley Falls as well as over the past year in the Granite Falls. “The whole purpose is to do anything we can to get people to garden,” he said. “In particular, we want to get the youth out there so that its something they can make a healthy habit of when they’re young and it’s easy.”
Initially he said he encountered a generally lukewarm reception to the idea but with the emerging popularity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) interactive educational programs and classrooms as well as $1,500 grant from the Youth Energy Summit (YES!), there has been an  increasing acceptance of the concept.
Thanks to a $100,000 Legacy Grant from the Bush Foundation, YME will be constructing its own STEM passive solar winter greenhouse classroom later this year. Similar to those built in Lac qui Parle and New London, it is capable of growing garden produce in a manner that provides educational opportunities as well as a healthy supplement to school lunches year-round.  
As for the YES! grant, Petrich  has thus far used the funds to purchase a tiller, trailer and seeds that he hopes to use on fertile soil soon. After spending the prior year gardening on land in the city industrial park, recent conversations with city and school administration has him optimistic that they’ll be able to acquire or utilize area residential property.
Petrich noted that Granite Falls Lutheran has offered half the lot of a property behind the church on which a home had been recently demolished. In addition, he has also been working with Superintendent Al Stoeckman to comb through possibilities coming off the delinquent tax rolls.
While the group is bound to pick up a few more participants as they move toward their planting date,  the  Garden Club is presently comprised of 20 elementary and high school students and five parents. Key Garden Club participants here include Haley Spielman and Nicole Musselman who––as Science Club President and Science Club Public Relations Coordinator, respectively––have been in integral in helping Petrich to catalyze interest and organize details.
“I like being a part of it,” said Musselman. “I like doing something that can make a difference.
 Both Spielman and Musselman said that they hold healthy eating up as a high priority and that they love the opportunity to work with youngsters to help foster like-appreciation of the concept in those who look up to them.
“It’s really exciting to get the kids into,” Spielman said. “When we put fresh vegetables out from the garden kids actually enjoyed eating them because they knew where it came from and weren’t just eating processed foods.”
Local vegetables almost always have more flavor as well as a higher concentration of nutrients as a few additional benefits. “Someday, I think it would be great to have a community garden pot luck,” said Petrich, recognizing that at this point the cart’s still before the horse.
Moving forward, Petrich said that the Garden Club is seeking community inter-generational involvement to both provide and take part in the cultivation of garden plots. In addition, he says the group could really use additional garden tools, such as but not limited to hoes, rakes and tillers.
Gardens will be divided into 10 x 10 plots for adults and 5 x10 plots for children. A $10 plot fee is mandatory for community members. As of now, the Garden Club will be on site in Hanley Falls at 5:00 p.m. and Granite Falls at 6:00 p.m.
For more info or to join in the fray contact Steve Petrich by email at: or 320-293-3576.