Growing New Gardeners in Longfellow

chardyouryardlongfellowThe Longfellow neighborhood has excellent neighborhood leadership and offers a number of initiatives designed to create a sustainable community. One of those programs is “Chard Your Yard: More Growing, Less Mowing.”

Longfellow resident and co-organizer for Transition Longfellow, Leslie MacKenzie, explained this signature spring program.

Q: What is “Chard Your Yard?”

Transition Longfellow, a neighborhood sustainability group operated completely by volunteers, uses ‘garden mobs’ to  install 3×5-foot raised bed gardens in people’s yards. This year, on May 16, some 20 volunteers will gather at a residential couple’s home for a hearty breakfast before they break into teams and head out with trucks and bikes into the neighborhood, bringing wood, dirt and a can-do attitude. They’ll assemble the beds on site, often with the help of homeowners.

This year the group will add 25 more raised beds to the 48 they’ve installed in the last two years (a few in nearby neighborhoods). They put them in front or back yards and
will install beds at rental properties with the land owner’s permission.

Q: Who pays for the program?

This isn’t a non-profit group, so the beds do have a cost: $65 for a regular 3×5 bed, with lumber coming from the neighborhood lumberyard, Hiawatha Lumber, and soil and  compost from Kerns or The Mulch Store.

Transition Longfellow partners with the neighborhood association, the Longfellow Community Council, to underwrite half the cost of a raised bed for low-income neighbors and senior citizens. They offer double-high beds for persons with  disabilities who find it too difficult to work low to the ground. Those beds are also subsidized, and cost $65.

Q: Why do it?

The community has no available space in the few community gardens in the area, so individual yards were the best and only option. The Homegrown Food movement is growing in Minneapolis because of a number of values:

  • to enhance the personal health of residents with fresh vegetables,
  • to help create a healthy outdoor activity, especially for seniors and families with children,
  • to encourage people to meet and engage with neighbors by being outside in yards,
  • to engage people in learning where their food comes from and caring about its quality,
  • to see firsthand the impact a changing climate has on our food supply.

Q: What happens after the garden beds are built?

Transition Longfellow wants to ensure new gardeners have the support they need to succeed, so it matches new gardeners with garden mentors. This year they’ve partnered with local Hennepin County master gardeners.

New gardeners can also participate in skill shares, discussion groups, workshops and garden tours throughout the summer, such as a First Saturday Herbs & Veggie Q&A group that meets at the Riverview Wine Bar from 10:30 to noon.

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