MSU Extension Valley County has teamed up with Milk River Activity Center (MRAC) and the Senior Citizen’s Center to build a community garden that provides an educational opportunity for developmentally disabled individuals and gives them a better understanding of nutrition and healthy eating. The start date of the gardens was January 3, 2012. Proceeds from the fee-free garden are shared with the Senior Citizen’s Center and the Valley County Food bank. The Glasgow Community Garden was a 2011 RHI Incubator Mini-grant recipient.
The project is designed to help developmentally disabled people learn life skills while providing them with fresh fruits and vegetables, bettering their awareness of healthy living and nutrition, and providing excess vegetables for the Senior Citizen’s Center and the local food bank.
MSU Extension has teamed up with Milk River Incorporated (MRI), a job and life skills learning center for the developmentally disabled. Through the use of Master Gardeners, trained by MSU Extension, volunteers have rallied around a community garden that is truly of benefit to the local underprivileged. Four raised garden beds (4ft X 20 ft) have been built from donated bridge planks and filled with donated soil. The RHI mini-grant allowed us to purchase materials to build three wheelchair accessible planters and the potting soil and peat moss necessary to fill the planters and raised beds. Master Gardeners have helped to teach planting techniques, weeding and proper watering to the clients of MRI. A volunteer from a nearby retirement facility comes three times a week to water the garden.
The community garden is an ongoing project and involves Milk River Activity Center, Senior Citizens Center, Valley County Food Bank, and MSU Extension; Master Gardener Program. Community involvement, a cooperative spirit, the willingness of the partners to work together for the betterment of themselves and their community are all key factors in ensuring the gardens are a success.
Participants involved with the gardens are the developmentally disabled clients of MRI, adults in the Master Gardener program, adult volunteers from the community and Extension personnel. All of the participants total about 25 people at this time, but it will continue to grow.
A nutritionist was brought in by MRI to teach the clients about proper nutrition, healthy eating and to re-vamp their menu to include the vegetables they are harvesting from the garden. The clients are also involved more in the community by sharing their harvest with the Senior Citizen’s Center and the Valley County Food Bank. The manager of the MRI contacted me to let me know how much her clients were enjoying the proceeds from the garden. Many had not had the opportunity to taste vegetables right from the garden and they were impressed by the flavor and texture of home grown produce. They especially enjoy watching the fruit ripen, and discussing how they will prepare it.
Results so far show that the clients of the MRAC have shown remarkable interest and dedication to the community garden. They are gaining valuable life skills and a keener understanding of where our food comes from and how to grow things as well as a greater awareness of nutrition and healthy eating. The Master Gardeners have found a wonderful place to hone the skills that they have learned during class and the community as a whole has gotten behind the project and has been very supportive. As a result of the new garden the developmentally disabled clients of the MRAC have had a nutrition educator come to their facility and teach them about healthy eating and have revamped their entire menu to include the fresh produce from the garden. The clients have had the opportunity to taste new and unique foods such as Kohlrabi, heirloom tomatoes and succulent green peppers that are freshly picked from the garden. Once the garden begins to produce larger amounts the clients will share their harvest with the Senior Citizen’s Center and the Valley County Food Bank.
This is its first year in production, so we will be monitoring how much produce is gleaned from the garden and how much is given to the food bank, and Senior Citizen’s Center. The gardens still need Shovels, spades, rakes and hand tools for gardening. We would also like to expand next year and add additional raised beds, so we will eventually need more soil and soil amendments.
To explore MSU Extension activities in Valley County, visit:http://www.msuextension.org/valley/
For more information, contact:
MSU Extension AG/4-H Agent – Valley County
MSU Extension FCS/4-H Agent – Valley County