Pine City Community Gardeners & Master Gardeners Celebrate Their Successes
by Terry Salmela
“I can’t believe how many vegetables that I got from a little 10’x20’ plot, it’s amazing,” said Joseph Lobello. He added, “The beans just kept coming and coming!” Joe was one of fourteen gardeners who put in 24 vegetable plots at the Pine City Community Garden this summer.
“My son was so excited about how much our plot produced that he wants us to put in two plots next year,” said Roxanne Beavers, Pine City who put in a plot for the first time this year.
These were some of the many positive comments shared by gardeners and master gardeners at the Pine City Community Garden Fall Harvest Festival Picnic held last Sunday evening in Challeen Park along the Snake River in Pine City. The picnic was held to celebrate a third successful community garden growing season and to thank the many volunteers who have made the community garden possible and to make several significant improvements at the garden this summer.
The Pine City Community Garden was one of the priorities identified through the Pine City Horizons Program three years ago. A steering committee worked on getting the garden organized for its first two years. This year the Pine County Master Gardeners coordinated the project according to master gardeners Paul Johnson and Jan McLearen who served as this year’s coordinators along with Barb Videen as secretary/treasurer.
According to Paul, the city of Pine City approved the use of an ideal location in Challeen Park. The city hauled in compost and manure, tilled the garden each spring, provided a shed, water hydrant, portable toilet, wood chips and hauled away brush.
In 2010 the steering committee with Jennifer Peterson’s effort applied for and received a $1,000 Community Garden Enhancement Grant from the Greater Pine Area Endowment a part of the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation. This summer the Pine County Master Gardeners and volunteers gave leadership to using the grant funds to do the following. They purchased locally and installed a new green rabbit fence; new gates; a new sign; moved, remodeled and painted the shed.
The master gardeners advertised for people who wanted a garden plot. They tested the soil, staked out the plots and served as mentors to the gardeners who requested them. Master gardeners Charles Mans and Dave Haugen presented beginning gardening sessions and Extension Nutrition Education Assistant Kelly Appeldorn shared harvesting and storing information.
Last year master gardener Lyn and her husband Al Johnson and other volunteers met weekly with Junior Master Gardeners (JMG) after school and at the garden. They used JMG curriculum hands-on learning activities to teach them how to plant, weed and harvest a variety of vegetables; make scarecrows; a bean tunnel and other fun gardening projects. This year they led an after school Junior Master Gardener education series for Pine City Elementary School students.
Master Gardener Barb Videen who served as a community garden mentor this year said, “It was fun to be a part of this group and see how many improvements we made in just one season. The gardeners were fun to work with and so enthusiastic about everything.”
According to garden asst. coordinator Jan McLearen the community garden is a great way for individuals and families to challenge themselves, have fun, learn together and surprise themselves when they see how much they can harvest from such a small amount of land.
First year gardener Elizabeth Logan summed up the value of the community garden when she said, “It was a great way to bring the community together to try something new. The resources and information that the master gardeners provided were so helpful. Just having the soil prepared by the city was such a great help. The way it is set up, everyone succeeds if they just weed, water and harvest. It’s so nice to visit with and get to know new people. It’s such a happy place, it’s my escape!” She added, “Tonight’s picnic cements the fact that it’s not just about gardening, but it’s about the gardening community.”
“We’ll definitely do it again next year,” said gardeners Ron and Lois Levin, Pine City.
For information on a community garden plot for next year, contact Paul Johnson at 320-629-6213, Dave Haugen at 320-629-3704 or Terry Salmela at the Pine County Extension office at 320-591-1653 or 1-800-657-3813 Ext. #3
Pine City Community gardeners and master gardeners front, L to R: Ethel Haugen, Lois and Ron Levin, Roxanne Beavers, Elizabeth and Adrianna Logan and Terry Salmela. Back, L to R: Barb Videen, Linda and Roger Fischer, Dave Haugen, Cindy Novy, Paul Johnson, Dave Videen, Tony Domagall, Ron Snorek, Christie Domagall and Jan McLearen.