This article originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Northern Gardener.
In fall 2015, Sue Humble, the program coordinator for the Chisago County Master Gardener program, discovered that North Branch had a community garden. After doing some reconnaissance, she found out the garden was “a water tank in the middle of a field.” “Without a fence, it was a deer-feeding station,” she says. “We couldn’t call that a community garden!”
Partnering with the city, local businesses and gardeners, the Master Gardeners transformed the field into an educational, productive community garden. “Dianne Patras-Smith and Dave Smith are two amazing gardeners who really spearheaded the project,” says Sue. “To have something that was almost gone turn into something that’s bringing people together blows my mind. The difference is huge.”
The Master Gardeners used local donations and grants to add a fence, picnic table, compost bin and shed, in addition to updating the watering system and establishing cover crops, paths and demonstration plots. The local Lions group built raised beds, and common areas with pollinator plants and fruits were planted, too.
Master Gardeners hold classes in the garden and installed plant and gardening information signs. Produce grown in the demonstration plots—and the 4-H Club’s plot—is donated to the local food shelf; 400 pounds of food were donated last year.
“It’s more than just a place to grow vegetables—though the result of that is great, knowing where food comes from,” says Sue. “It’s a place to learn something new, to meet someone new. It’s about being outside with your community in a world where we’re so tied to our computers and screens.”