“Growing Together is a group of people who gather together to grow food and relationships. We are not a standard community garden. We garden communally. Sharing the work and sharing the produce. The original mission was to assist New American residents of Fargo to make friends and feel safe here. When I approached our church initially to ask how we might do this we didn’t know the answer would be a garden. When my pastors and I gathered a group together to brainstorm that’s where the idea hatched from. Then I met Jack. I approached the New Americans through my job with the ELL programs at Fargo Schools and they overwhelmingly agreed they wanted to be able to join a garden. Our refugee families were our inspiration. It started with 8 New American Families. Today we host 6 gardens with over 150 Families both community and new Americans.
We grow food because farming is such a common practice world wide. Working side by side builds relationships and breaks down barriers even without a common language. The food we grow feeds our stomachs and our souls!
Our 6 gardens Measure 2.14 acres. We turn all of our vegetation back into the soil. The city of Fargo composts leaves in the fall and returns to us as compost in the spring. This year our biggest hurdle was rain over our average rainfall. Our gardens are in the process of becoming raised beds but the areas that have not been raised were under water which destroyed parts of our gardens.
We also have a children’s garden program run by a couple of our core leaders, Nancy Allen and Kathy Johnson and for several years we worked together with two fourth grade teachers at one of our elementary schools teaching them about gardening , worm composting and helping them plant their own garden at school.
We grow commonly used vegetables like peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumber and our gardeners also love heritage pumpkins and squash, onions and potatoes. We are learning about how many of our families use more parts of the plants than we do!! Like the tips of pumpkin vines.
The biggest reward is helping to support underserved populations. Many of our families have purchased freezers so they can have their veggies all winter. People are getting exercise, reducing their grocery bill, sharing extra with their neighbours and making friends. Our gardens are setup where the shares go to Full Share members. To be a full share member a volunteer must log 16 hours. Each garden is shared with the number of volunteers that are at the garden.
One of our hurdles is developing garden leaders among our former refugee gardeners with limited English proficiency so they can lead gardening teams with English speakers. We are working on that.
We have participated in our local International Potluck organization, donated veggies to Heart and Soul Community Cafe, donated hundreds of pounds to local pantries and shelters. Jack and I and some of our other garden leaders have done quite a bit of public speaking and Jack did a TED TALK!!
What started as a project that would help our Community connect with New Americans has evolved into community gardens and outreach for others for garden startups. Growing Together has a tool kit that we share with new startups that detail what is needed to start a community Garden.
Our very first summer one of our gardeners an elderly woman from Liberia picked up a handful of soil and let it fall through her fingers and smiled and said “Africa.” We knew although she could never go back she could be a farmer again here with us at Growing Together.”
Read more here www.Facebook.com/GrowingTogetherND