Two plots in need of volunteers


Jane Metcalf and Shannon Durbin weed the Central School garden. They are looking for volunteers to help them. Register photo by Pam Reinig

 

By Pam Reinig, Register Editor

 

The organizers of two community gardens want to share the fruits—and vegetables—of their labors with others, as long as “others” are willing to share in the work.

“It’s been a tough sell,” admitted Jane Metcalf, as she worked the ground at the Central School Garden on a muggy late afternoon. “It’s a nice idea in the spring and fall, and the students really get into it. But summer’s another story. It’s a challenge to get volunteers to help with chores like weeding.”

Scheduling is an issue, she continued. Last year, early morning hours were set aside for regular garden maintenance; organizers tried to interest  volunteers with special programming like yoga. Response was not overwhelming. This year, organizers decided to meet on Thursdays at 5:30. That conflicts with swimming meets and softball games. Metcalf hopes more volunteers will turn up when those seasons end.

“Everybody agrees that it’s important to know where our produce comes from and to get fresh produce on our kids’ plates,” said Shannon Durbin, a program coordinator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “We need just a few people every week to make that happen.”

Volunteers who help at the Central garden will get to share in the harvest. The produce will also be used in the school lunch program. Metcalf and Durbin said they could find tasks for adult volunteers and kids alike.

Former student Neil Blair started the Central garden several years ago as an Eagle Scout project. 

Anyone interested in helping in the garden need only show up Thursdays at 5:30. The garden is located on North Main Street near the playground. Following the work on July 17, an ISU staffer will present a program on home food preservation. For more information, contact Durbin at 563-245-1451.

Ground was broken June 8 on a second community garden located on the south edge of Elkader near St. Joseph’s cemetery. According to Helen Backes, one of the project coordinators, the Elkader Community Garden “was planted by volunteers who are dedicated to helping feed individuals and families who need fresh produce to supplement their food budgets and provide healthy food choices.” Volunteers get to share in the harvest; excess produce will be donated to the Clayton County Food Shelf.

The scheduled work time is Tuesdays at 5 p.m. However, the garden is open daily from dusk to dawn, which gives volunteers the flexibility to work the soil according to their schedules. Rules pertaining to the garden are posted on the shed next to the plot and on the group’s Facebook site.

The Elkader Community Garden was planted with about a dozen different items, including staples like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash and peppers. A variety of herbs and sunflowers were also planted. The organizers plan a second planting of vegetables that prefer a cooler growing season like lettuce, peas and radishes.

Community members donated seeds and plants for the garden. A volunteer tilled the ground and another installed a gutter on the shed next to the garden to catch rain water, which flows into one of two large drums donated by Fitzgerald Surge. Spigots were installed on the drums to access the water. Future additions include fencing and signage.

For more information on the Elkader Community Garden, to volunteer or to make a donation, contact Jo Werling, 319-361-4962, and Helen Backes, 563-245-2267.

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