This week on the blog, we are featuring two guest bloggers: Kim, the Site Coordinator and Farm Manager for Loaves & Fishes; and Gia, the Garden Coordinator for St. Therese. Please enjoy as these two extrodinary gardeners write about their 2016 gardening season.
Both gardens are a part of Tonkadale’s Grow and Give program which generates thousands of pounds of fresh produce for those who need it most. Through the Grow and Give program, Tonkadale provides vegetable starts, onion and potato sets, and seeds to community gardens that raise produce for the ICA Food Shelf. This year, the gardens produced almost 10,000 pounds of produce. WOW!
2016 was the first year that we teamed up with the Loaves & Fishes Farm for All. Tonkadale provided seeds and vegetable starts for their one-acre farm.
All of the gardeners are doing great work in the community. This is the time of year for celebration, merriment and family, but it is also the time for giving. Consider getting involved with one of these organizations or starting a community garden at your place of work, church or school. We have so much to give — our time, our talents, our knowledge and our resources.
Tonkadale is a greenhouse. We have a source for seeds and we can grow a pretty darn good veggie crop. We are happy to give so you can grow. Get us your Grow and Give garden requests and proposals between now and April 1st! There is even a form on our website to send requests!
Loaves & Fishes Farm for All
As part of Loaves & Fishes’ Farm for All initiative, we harvested our final crops of lettuce, kale and herbs last week, just before the frost.
This year has been the longest growing season in Minnesota’s recorded history and Loaves and Fishes utilized it to its fullest. We planted our first crops on April 30. Over the course of the year, hundreds of volunteers and I harvested more than 3,700 pounds of produce.
My team and I want to give a special thank you to Tonkadale Greenhouse for all of the seeds and plant starts that you generously donated. Your Grow and Give program made Loaves & Fishes’ Farm For All possible this year. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Loaves & Fishes is a free, nutritious meal program with 28 dining sites across the Twin Cities metro area and beyond. We serve more than 2,000 meals each day to those in need. Our ultimate goal is to provide three to four servings of fresh fruits and vegetables on every plate. Through our collection of four farms and gardens, Loaves & Fishes provides a farm-to-table approach for guests who normally wouldn’t have access to such produce.
This year, more than 26,000 of Loaves & Fishes’ meals incorporated Farm for All produce. We are feeding more people, with fresher produce, in more communities. Thank you again, Tonkadale Greenhouse, for helping to make this happen.
When I’m not on the farm, I serve meals at our Easter Lutheran dining site in Eagan. I have many guests who frequently share their gratitude and enthusiasm for Farm for All. One of my guests who has pancreatic cancer and can’t cook for himself is particularly excited about the vitamins and nutrients provided by the fresh farm produce.
My guests enjoy the opportunity to give back to Loaves & Fishes as well, and they have the chance to do so through the farm. People enjoy talking about ideas for the farm and working in the garden at our Eagan dining site.
If you are interested in getting more involved in Farm for All or Loaves & Fishes, please join us this Thursday at the Mall of America for the Walk to End Hunger, a 5k fund-raising effort to end hunger in Minnesota. I will be at the Loaves & Fishes booth and would be delighted to tell you more about Farm for All and Loaves & Fishes. If you are unable to attend the event, please feel free to reach out by email or sign up to volunteer online at http://www.loavesandfishesmn.org/.
Site Coordinator and Farm Manager for Loaves and Fishes
The Garden at St. Therese
“Show me your garden, and I will tell you who you are.” – Anonymous
The Garden at St. Therese is a giving vegetable garden that supports the ICA (Intercongregation Communities Association) Food Shelf. The garden originated in 2007, was interrupted during the construction of Deephaven Woods Senior Living, and began again at the current site in fall 2014 with permanent fencing and a management plan as a part of the Church of St. Therese of Deephaven community outreach.
The garden measures 80 x 120 feet and is divided into seven garden beds. The main goal of the garden is to support the ICA as a sign of Jesus’ love for our brothers in need and thereby fulfills the first corporal work of mercy: feed the hungry.
The garden is managed as a production garden under the direction of a volunteer team, and is worked by volunteers ranging in age from 10 to 80 years. Our current email list exceeds 50 people. We have one big day of Boy Scout help spreading wood chips on the paths in the spring, and two main planting days assisted by Hennepin County Master Gardeners. Some people volunteer once a summer, and others volunteer two to three times a week.
Mike Slinkard from the Master Gardener program is the consultant for the garden and is experienced in the largest giving gardens in the county. The goals of the garden are threefold: to feed the hungry with the best produce possible, to serve our community as a church and make a positive impact, and to be beautiful and enjoyed by all who see it and come into it.
The main plant list is the requested produce that ICA requests – tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, celery, green beans, summer squash, winter squash and melons. Additionally, we grow watermelon, beets, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, okra, basil, thyme, parsley, garlic, cilantro, mint, rosemary and sweet potatoes to provide variety.
The plants are donated by Tonkadale Greenhouse and Dewayne Ullsperger. Seeds are donated by Cub Foods and individuals. Our achievable goal for 2016 was to be able to grow and deliver over 4,000 lbs. of produce to ICA. This year the summer squash, winter squash, cabbage, tomatoes, and peppers did very well. We are hopeful for a plentiful harvest of sweet potatoes.
The garden is also a source for Boy Scout Eagle projects; the third of five of these projects is under way. This year, a new three-part compost bin was constructed and installed. New garden gates and steppers were installed this fall. A pollinator and memory border is planned for next spring along the south side of the fence that faces Deephaven Woods Senior Living. Beautiful cedar garden benches were built last fall and donated as an Eagle project.
The garden is dedicated to our church’s patron saint, Therese of Lisieux. “Above and Beyond” roses are planted at the arbor as a reminder of her words, “I will let fall from heaven a shower of roses.” We are hopeful that these roses will reach their height potential of 14 feet and cover the arbor that was built by parishioners with beautiful, fragrant roses.
Volunteers work on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m.and on Saturdays at 9 a.m. Everyone is welcome to help. We are deeply indebted to everyone who helps in the garden, whether they come once or often. ICA’s goal was to collect 7,500 lbs. of fresh produce this growing season, and our goal is to meet half of that need or better with God’s help.