In the small town of Arlington, the University of Minnesota Extension and MSHS’s Garden-in-a-Box Program developed a small but sustainable way to connect and support the town’s Latino community through gardening. For years, language and geography seemed to separate the Latino families, many of whom lived in a mobile home park, from the rest of Arlington.
Mary Krentz, Supplemental Nurtrition Assistance Program (SNAP) educator, believed Garden-in-a-Box kits would help families feel they belonged in Arlington while also learning a new skill and gaining a way to provide fresh and healthy vegetables for their families. Mary, along with a Sibley County community health worker, went door-to-door in the Latino neighborhood, working through a language divide and the all-too-common wariness of strangers to find eight families interested in sharing four Garden-in-a-Box kits.
With the help of Jason Ertl, an ag extension educator, Kim Schneider, a Sibley County Master Gardener, and several youth volunteers, Latino families planted and then cared for their gardens. There were bumps in the road as they struggled to find water and figure out what to do with all of their basil. Extension supported families throughout the growing season by offering nutrition and gardening resources. Much to everyone’s delight, gardening also produced lasting friendships between the Latino youth and Anglo youth volunteers, such as Mary’s daughter.
More families in Arlington are becoming familiar with this garden project and in 2017, they received two more Garden-in-a-Box kits they will be placing at a local business appropriately named “Los Tres Hermanos” or The Three Siblings.