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United Way Grant spurs new community garden

Where most people saw an empty city lot, Granger’s Penny Perkins saw a thriving vegetable garden that bettered her community. It wasn’t just an idle dream; it was a commitment to make things happen.

This Saturday, April 26, Perkins will lead the first workday of Granger’s new community garden, next to Emmanuel Methodist Church, 1910 Locust Street. Starting at 9 a.m. the crew will lay out garden beds, spread mulch for pathways and install fencing. Planting begins Saturday, May 10 at 9 a.m.. Volunteers are still needed for both events and throughout the growing season. So how did the garden idea come about?

“Penny came to us after the building has been demolished and asked what we planned to do with the Lot,” said the Rev. Bill Deskin, Emmanuel’s pastor. “We said, we’ll probably sod it. Penny asked if it could become a community garden instead. I said, if our trustees approve and as a church, if we aren’t responsible for tending the garden, then you can use it.”

Meanwhile, Perkins searched the Internet, discovered United Way of Central Iowa offered grants to establish community gardens, applied for one and was awarded $550. Some additional contributions and free seeds from a seed-saver friend gave the project life.

Perkins says the produce yield will be divided into thirds. One third is planned as “payment” to the volunteer gardeners, one-third is to be given the Granger Food Bank to supplement its largely canned goods offerings, and one-third is to be sold, on a free-will offering basis, at the church. The church also houses the food bank.

The ability to add nutritious, locally grown food to the Food Bank is vital, says Perkins, who notes that the poor most often rely on nutritionally dubious, highly processed canned goods. “I have just jumped on the wagon of good nutrition and local food movements. It’s really hit home listening to my sister from back in Illinois tell stories of the elderly choosing between buying food and medicine,” said Perkins.

Perkins said the produce choices – tomatoes, peppers, carrots, peas, beans, turnips and kohlrabi have long growing seasons, are popular, and have a long shelf life. “It’s really important that we offer fresh, locally grown, nutritious food,” she said. “The problem with shipping, say, lettuce, from California, is it’s often either picked too soon, or treated to have a long shelf life.”

Perkins said volunteers are needed to tend the garden, harvest, and distribute the produce.

For more information, contact Perkins at grangergarden@gmail.com.

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