This article originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Northern Gardener magazine.
“We want to feed hungry people in our community,” says Andy Lapham, community garden director with Sisters’ Camelot, a community-supported food share with community gardens. Volunteers collect donated organic produce that would otherwise be thrown out and distribute it in low-income neighborhoods from the organization’s Food Bus. They distribute 5,000 to 7,000 pounds every week.
The nonprofit established a community garden to grow more food to give away. “We want to show people how much you can grow in an unused city lot,” says Andy. Started in 2015, the garden is on the corner of 36th Street and Chicago Avenue South in Minneapolis. Volunteers have planted pollinator plants, a rain garden, herbs and vegetables and numerous fruit trees and bushes. Grapes, apples, plums, pears, elderberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries and hardy kiwi, plus asparagus, hops and tobacco all grow in this one city lot.
“Focusing on perennial fruit and vegetable plants will be more sustainable and provide more produce for us to give to our neighbors in need,” says Andy. “The Minnesota Green donation from the Friends School Plant Sale was great—we got a lot of plants from that, as well as the many other donations.”
The garden also features a passive solar chicken coop, beehives, a fire pit for gatherings and a compost pile. Outside the Sisters’ Camelot community garden, volunteers leave food on the community food bench next to the bus stop. “I’ll go out to the food bench, and there’ll be a ton of food out there, and I don’t know who it’s from,” says Andy. “Our presence in the neighborhood has definitely inspired others to give back too.”