Raised beds help local community grow together

Growing Together recently installed raised gardening beds in Virginia’s Northside Jefferson Park.

VIRGINIA — Growing Together, a community gardening initiative, has installed raised gardening beds in Northside Jefferson Park.

“Working with the original concept of good old-fashioned gardening we’ve improved this location with the, more accessible, raised beds,” said Growing Together Coordinator Lori Schiebe over Zoom earlier this week.

“I think this is a wonderful project for the community,” said 4-H coordinator at the North St. Louis County UMN Extension office over email this week. Although 4-H was not a part of this project, Kudrle recommends families take advantage of Growing Together and garden this summer. “This is a great way for youth and families to explore the world of growing your own food. Gardening is a wonderful way for families to connect and learn together while being outside and enjoying food that is healthy and nutritious.”

The gardens at Northside Jefferson Park had been one large space, divided into in-ground plots. Through this revitalization project, the area was redesigned to include 15 raised bed gardens.

To build and fill the individual gardens, the group is welcoming donations. Sponsorship of beds are being offered for a one-time donation of $185 per bed. Each sponsored gardening bed will display a wooden plaque with the name of the sponsor or business.

“I am very excited with the improvements that Growing Together has made at the Northside gardens,” said Brian Silber, Virginia’s Director of Parks and Recreation over email this week. “These upgrades not only will make each garden track more accessible for those who use them but will also make the park easier to maintain for staff resulting in a more attractive and accessible amenity in our park.”

The new raised beds are spaced 8 feet apart so the city’s public works employees can mow between the gardens.

“Last year, the Northside garden was not fully utilized and a little harder to maintain,” explained Schiebe. “I had the thought to put raised beds there and I think it turned out really well. I think it will be utilized more, now, and is more aesthetically pleasing.”

The wood frames of the raised beds were constructed by shop students at ERATS and led by their teacher Zac Topping. Several members of the Topping family and Growing Together volunteers installed and filled these gardens last week.

“Along with the ERATS students and volunteers, we would like to thank the city of Virginia who had previously donated the land for this site,” said Marlise Riffel, board member of Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability over Zoom this week.

The mission of Growing Together is to build a healthy and sustainable community by creating neighborhood gardens and gardening education opportunities for residents.

“The Virginia gardens allow people to be able to grow their own organic food or flowers,” Schiebe said. “Right now that is important for people — knowing where food comes from and getting out there and doing it on their own.”

Schiebe added that the community gardens help bring the community together and far enough apart to accommodate current social distancing recommendations.

According to the group’s brochure, “Growing Together, Virginia Community Gardens is under the umbrella of the Rutabaga Project which is a partnership between the IRPS and the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA). It is funded by Essentia Health with the goal to increase access to nutritious, locally grown food for all.”

Riffel, who is the manager of Virginia Market Square, the area’s farmers market, said that she is getting a lot of inquiries concerning healthy food access because of COVID-19. “People are nervous about the reliability of the food chain,” she explained. “They want to know where their food is coming from and are taking more food production work on themselves.”

For this and other reasons, area residents should consider participating in Growing Together.

There are five gardening sites throughout Virginia, with a total of 55 plots, which area residents can rent an area to grow their own food or flowers each season. The gardens are located at Northside Jefferson Park (at the intersection of 8th Ave W and 13th St N), Pine Mill Court, North Bailey’s Lake, AEOA’s Youth Foyer and 216 Chestnut Street, where hanicapped-accessible raised beds are located.

Raised beds and ground plots are rented for the season. There is a fee for each location but all are offered on a sliding scale.

“I would encourage anyone who is desiring to reserve a garden plot to not delay. These are ideal garden beds that are not only conveniently located but also excellent to promote growth in plants and in our community,” said Silber.

The Northside Jefferson Park now holds 15 4-foot by 12-foot raised beds. Each bed is $25 for the season.

The location at North Bailey’s Lake is behind Pohaki Lumber and can be accessed behind Range Paint by the walking path around the lake. This garden does not have raised beds. Here there are 16 10-foot by 12-foot ground plots offered at $30 for the season.

There are handicap accessible raised beds at 216 Chestnut St., right downtown Virginia. At this site there are nine 4-foot by 8-foot raised beds at both wheelchair and standing height. These are rented at $20 for the season.

For Pine Mill Court residents, there are 4 5-foot by 10-foot ground plots behind the Pine Mill Court Office. These plots are free to residents.

The final garden is located at the AEOA Youth Foyer, 302 12th St S. There are 15 4-foot by 10-foot low raised beds rented at $20 for the season.

For more information on Growing Together or to rent a garden email growingtogethervirginia@gmail.com. The group can be followed on Facebook @GrowingTogetherVirginia.

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