A growing generosity: Garden tended by volunteers produced 500 pounds of food this yearThe corn, tomatoes and potatoes growing outside of the Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks aren’t part of an experiment or study. The vegetables are a portion of the center’s People’s Garden. The People’s Garden is an initiative started three years ago by Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
By: Brandi Jewitt, Grand Forks Herald
The corn, tomatoes and potatoes growing outside of the Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks aren’t part of an experiment or study.
The vegetables are a portion of the center’s People’s Garden. The People’s Garden is an initiative started three years ago by Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Since its inception, the national program has produced more than 1.3 million pounds of food — all of which is donated to food banks and charities.
The center’s garden has contributed 500 pounds of produce to that total so far this year, according to Kay Keehr, a biological science lab technician. Everything harvested from the garden is donated to the Northlands Rescue Mission.
“They’re feeding 150 people a day,” Keehr said. “Food is their first and foremost need.”
In the past, local food shelves and pantries also received donations.
“The garden is part of understanding the importance and limitation of food,” said Jerry Combs, the center’s director. “It draws attention to the fact that we have a precious, valuable food supply.”
The first phase
Gardening at the center began three years ago when indoor planters were opened up for employees to plant produce.
“Each year, employees are getting more and more adventurous with what they grow in them,” Keehr said.
The planters receive water from the overflow of the building’s water purification system.
Keehr says the planters were the first of three phases of the People’s Garden. The next step brought the garden outside with the planting of an apple tree and grape vines.
The third phase started this summer when two garden plots were established outside of the center. On the east side of the building, corn, peas, green and yellow beans, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers fill the rows of the garden plot. Cabbage, eggplant and kohlrabi occupy the plot in front of the center.
Both plots have produced a plentiful bounty.
“That garden came up like nobody’s business,” Keehr said.
Not on company time
Maintaining the garden is a team effort, one that takes place off the clock. All tending employees do to the garden is on a volunteer basis.
“We have two or three master gardeners, a few avid ones and quite a few learners,” Combs said.
The garden serves as an educational opportunity, not just for employees but also for the public what may walk by the center. Signs displaying the nutritional benefits of the gardens contents are posted near the plots.
“Learning and sharing is part of The People’s Garden,” Keehr said. “If I’m out working in the garden and someone walks by, I ask them if they want a few fresh cucumbers.”
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