By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Though plenty of snow still covers the ground, Jan Johnson of Franklin Township and a group of local residents are thinking spring and gardening.
Johnson has been the driving force behind bringing a community garden to Delano, and along with the support of the Big Woods Garden Club, the City of Delano, and other local businesses, forces have been combined to launch the first ever Delano Area Community Garden (DACG) this summer.
Community gardens are designated areas allowing those wishing to plant fruits and vegetables a public space to do so, Johnson explained. The 90-foot by 110-foot garden will be located behind the pavilion in Delano’s Central Park.
Johnson said a friend of hers, Elaine Harkess, mentioned she would like to have the space to “get her hands in the dirt,” and that got the ball rolling for Johnson.
“She had no place to garden,” Johnson said. “I thought, ‘if one person doesn’t, what do those in apartments do?’ I could see the benefit for so many people.”
Because of Johnson’s involvement with Love INC Heartland, she talked to area pastors about the possibility of their church sites, along with Adam Kleve of Flower Farm by Otten Brothers, for suggestions.
She also attended a Delano Area Chamber of Commerce Highway 12 Open for Business Task Force meeting where she networked with Delano City Administrator Phil Kern about the project.
“From there, I brought the idea to Phil Kern, the city administrator, and he found the team,” Johnson said. “This group included members of the Big Woods Garden Club, businesses, Dream Team, and the city. This phenomenal group was able to put this entire project together in a very short period of time, allowing us to be prepared for the upcoming growing season. It was a matter of one month from when I went to that Highway 12 task force meeting to when it was passed by the city council.”
“The timing is perfect,” Delano Mayor Joe McDonald said at the city council’s March 3 meeting, where the garden was approved.
“It’s amazing how far this has come so quickly,” Kern said at the council meeting.
The team includes Johnson, Harkess, Kleve, Deb DeBeer, Betsy Stolfa, Harlan Lewis, Janet Clark, Paula Savage, and Luke Fischer. The group will serve as an independent subcommittee within the city, with the city being responsible for the oversight of the committee, insuring the garden, and other general liability associated with such a garden.
Not only will the DACG have a place for those who just want to garden, but it will give those in need a place to add to their food source at a very reasonable cost, Johnson said.
“Our goal is to make this individually run,” Johnson said.
Registration materials will be available at area churches, businesses, and information is also posted on the city web site at www.delano.mn.us. From the homepage, click “community” and scroll down to community garden.
How the community garden works
Participants will receive a 10-foot by 20-foot plowed garden plot with aged manure, wood chip paths, and a water source.
The target opening date for the garden is Friday, May 15, but may vary year-to-year due to weather and soil conditions. Gardens must be planted by June 15 and maintained all summer.
The cost is $14 per plot and limited to one plot per family. Additional plots may be available after Monday, May 4. Participants will be required to attend an educational seminar at Flower Farm by Otten Brothers.
“At the educational seminar, registered gardeners will learn gardening techniques from a Wright County Master Gardener, discuss rules of the Delano Community Garden, and receive donated seed packets, and a Flower Farm gift card to help start their crops,” Johnson said.
Anyone interested in starting a plot is encouraged to contact the Delano City Hall at (763) 972-0550 or visit the city web site at www.delano.mn.us for more details.
Registrations will be taken up to Monday, May 4, or until the garden is full.
“Space is limited, so register early,” Johnson said.
The DACG committee will be seeking site preparation help from individuals, businesses, and area civic groups. Individuals, businesses, or civic groups willing to help with the initial preparation of the garden site are asked to contact Jan Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johnson is also willing to go to churches or organizations and speak to them, and the DACG is encouraging local civic groups to rent a plot and donate produce to the local food shelf.
“Really, it’s for people in need and those using the food shelf,” Johnson said.
Another thing Johnson hopes happens, in time, with the garden is that it is used as an educational tool. She said children have to learn where food comes from, and said she hopes the school may lease a plot and use it as a classroom experience.
“The possibilities are endless,” Johnson said. “It’s about having to be self-sufficient and help others.”