LettuceDespite the many different opinions and ideas about what should and shouldn’t happen in our community I would wager a bucket of potatoes (Purple Peruvian, Yukon Gold, Russets, and Pink Fingerlings) that we could all agree that our families need access to food.

I propose tomato plants bordered with nasturtiums and basil, bean poles and cucumber fences, mounds of zucchini and summer squash, fresh flower and herb bouquets, and delighted children tasting the first snap peas of the season, all squished inside a deer proof fence. Some of us might already have gardens; however, what I am proposing is a garden shared by any member of the community who wishes to get their hands a little dirty in exchange for the satisfaction of growing, harvesting, and preserving food for the cost of their time spent shared with family and friends.

What does a community garden look like?
Imagine filling a couple of water bottles, grabbing a hat and walking for ten minutes to arrive at a garden buzzing with local gossip, laughter, and friendly hellos. Hand tools are located in a shed on site and water is available to keep your veggies growing. While you cultivate weeds around your squash and pop a few delicious snap peas into the mouths of your children, you catch up with a neighbor about what is going on with the proposed park or how the baseball team did at their last game. When the weeds are plucked clean from your 10 x 10 raised bed you plant a few more carrots and lettuce seeds. Another neighbor is leaving and offers you some of the extra spinach and radishes they just harvested. By the time you and your children leave you have planned for a BBQ with the neighbors on Sunday and have a basketful of goodies you and your neighbors have grown for tonight’s supper. The best sense of satisfaction comes when you realize that your $20.00 investment to secure a garden bed for the season has paid for itself over and over with an abundance of flavor, nutrition, and dollar savings at your dinner table.

A raised bed garden. 
How do community gardens benefit communities?
Community gardens create safe places for families to meet neighbors and build relationships. In fact, studies show that community gardens reduce crime in the neighborhoods where they are located. Community Gardens are also wonderful places for people of all ages to learn. Kids get to explore everything from where food really comes from to local geography, climate, and biology. Watching seeds sprout and become plants is a favorite activity in the garden for my three year old. Adults have the opportunity to share knowledge and skills about how to grow the tastiest tomatoes or the hottest peppers or to share grandma’s recipe for pickling a bumper crop of cucumbers. One of the most important benefits of a community garden is that access to nutritionally superior food is available to anyone willing to spend a little time with neighbors pulling weeds and plucking ripe juicy cherry tomatoes from the vine. No one needs to go hungry in our community. Community Gardens are built in insurance policies for food insecurity, ballooning healthcare costs, and economic decline.

What needs to happen to create a community garden here in our community?
First, we need a team of committed individuals supported by their community. Do you know anyone with a green thumb or who is green with desire to save money and feed their family? Second, we need a site within the community that has good solar and water access, is safe for families, central to people, and available to lease for 5 + years. Third, we need individuals and families willing to explore the art of growing food for themselves and their community. Fourth, we need donations of all sorts from community members. Potential donations would include, garden tools (rakes, spades, hoses, shovels, etc.), mulch (lawn clippings from untreated lawns, leaves, straw, manure, etc.), building and or fencing materials, and labor (to erect a deer proof fence, the raised beds, and a secure location to store tools).

Larger donations could include top soil, untreated lumber, a shed, gravel, etc. If you are interested in helping to establish a community garden, would like to have a plot, or would like to make a donation, please contact Jill Russell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 406-493-6522 or Judy Matson at Friends of Two Rivers, 370-5929. People of all ages, levels of experience, and walks of life are welcome to participate.

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