Sage Gardeners

Reconnecting seniors to their gardening roots one accessible garden at a time.

Sage Gardeners is a non-profit philanthropic organization based out of Bozeman, MT. Their goal is to reconnect senior citizens in either retirement communities or private residences with their gardening roots by providing easily accessible raised gardens. Sage Gardeners believes it is important that seniors have easily accessible organic vegetable gardens because they provide quality organic produce, physical activity and social interaction for seniors. Raised gardens are constructed so that they are easy to access and do not require seniors to be on their knees or bent over in order to plant or take care of the vegetables.

Sage Gardeners began in 2010 with a vision to make accessible gardens available to seniors in Gallatin county. The first gardens were built for the Parkhaven Retirement Community in Manhattan, MT with funding assistance from the Rural Health Initiative Incubator Mini-Grant Program. In 2011, gardens were built for the Summerwood/Spring Run Retirement Community in Bozeman, MT also with funds from the Incubator Mini-Grant Program. Both of these garden projects are ongoing and had bountiful harvests since they began.

Gardens have also been built for several seniors living in private residences around Gallatin county. The private residence project focuses mainly on low to moderate income seniors in Montana. Sage Gardeners will create, build and assist in maintaining raised organic vegetable gardens in the private backyards of Montana seniors. They will assist in planting and harvesting, as well as assisting in maintaining the gardens annually and/ or aiding in purchasing fresh compost, mulch, plants, and seeds for the following years. The organization will provide ongoing support to the individuals based on each senior’s needs and abilities.  The goal of this project is to provide as many gardens as possible as funding allows.

Currently Sage Gardeners is focusing on providing gardens to retirement communities and private residences in the Gallatin county. However the long-term goal of Sage Gardeners is to provide accessible raised garden beds for retirement communities and private residences statewide.


Interested in learning more about Sage Gardeners or how you can help them grow?

Visit their website: http://www.sagegardeners.org/



Profile of the Week: Mineral Community Hospital Disc Golf Course

This past year the Mineral Community Hospital Foundation partnered with Superior High school to design and install a disc golf course on the hospital campus.  The goal of this project was to offer Mineral County residents a unique recreation venue to engage with family and friends.


The disc golf course project began in the spring of 2012 and was completed by the summer of 2012. The hospital foundation worked with volunteers from the P.E. class at Superior High School to develop and install the disc golf course. The students who volunteered enjoyed the opportunity to design something for their community. After the course was completed, community members enjoyed it for the rest of the summer.

One of the nine holes on the hospital campus disc golf course

Many different groups got great usage out of the course this past summer including Cub and Boy Scout troops. It served as a place where families could go and spend time together learning a new sport and enjoying the fresh air. The hospital encourages all community members to come out and get into disc golf. The hospital has other plans for the course as well. In the future they intend to use the disc golf course for fundraising events as well as hospital wellness promotion activities, like interdepartmental challenges.

High School P.E. Class

Superior High School students who helped develop and install the disc golf course

The hospital maintenance staff designed signs for each of the nine holes on the course. The signs are wooden and have the Mineral Community Hospital logo incorporated into the design. The hospital foundation plans to ask local businesses to sponsor holes and have the business’s names placed on the holes they sponsor. The funding for this project came from donations and enabled the hospital to purchase quality equipment that will last for years to come.

Contact information: Steve Carty, scarty@mchospital.net


Glasgow Community Garden

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:

Shelley Mills
MSU Extension AG/4-H Agent – Valley County
Roubie Younkin
MSU Extension FCS/4-H Agent – Valley County

Rocky Mountain Youth Resources

The mission of Rocky Mountain Youth Resources (RMYR) is to empower and support youth to become independent, responsible adults.

 At RMYR, youth experience relationships characterized by safety, protection, and care. We set healthy limits in a caring, structured community, giving youth confidence to try out positive behaviors, to build on individual strengths, and to learn from mistakes. RMYR believes that all youth need a supportive environment that allows them to develop wellness, express their individuality, and learn the skill to live independently.

 Rocky Mountain Youth Resources (RMYR) provides services to over 100 youth from communities across the state of Montana annually. RMYR helps youth who are abused, unwanted, runaways, chemically dependent, or emotionally troubled by equipping them with life skills to overcome severe situational disadvantages. RMYR operates two youth homes located in Helena: the Jan Shaw Therapeutic Youth Home for girls and the Margaret Stuart Youth Home for boys and girls.

The primary focus of the Youth Garden Project was to maintain a sustainable summer garden at each youth home, incorporating health wellness, and prevention into Rocky Mountain Youth Resources’ Independent Living Training (ILT) program curriculum. The gardens were constructed, planted, and maintained solely by the youth in the homes with the assistance of community volunteers. The project intended to teach the residents of RMYR about the environment, healthy nutrition, gardening skills, and responsibility. The main project goals were as follows:

Promote health, wellness, and overall healthy living.

  • Stimulate healthy diet habits with access to fresh produce.
  • Expose youth to nutritional health education through the Independent Living Training Program, using the youth garden as a primary tool.
  • Utilize the garden project as an intervention strategy for many clients with poor health and nutrition.
    • At the time the gardens were built, we had two pregnant women in our care. It is crucial for them to receive optimal nutrition while eating for two, and to generally understand the importance of healthy eating.
    • Within the last year, we have experienced an increase in diabetic clients. For these clients, diet and nutrition is an obstacle they will have to manage the rest of their lives. The acquisition of knowledge regarding diet and nutrition will benefit them beyond their stay with RMYR.

Teach youth at RMYR the value of environmental sustainability.

  • Invite local organic farmers to serve as educators through the ILT program.
  • Youth will learn the connection between what they are eating and where it comes from.
  • Educational resources in botany, composting, organic gardening, pesticide use and safety, soils and fertilizers, and environmental sciences.
  • Unique opportunity for ILT community volunteer guest speaker sessions.

Teach responsibility, work ethic, and patience through hands-on learning opportunities.

  • Gardening is a process, requiring time, effort, and hard work. All skills of which we hope to expose our youth to in preparation for adulthood.
  • Teach the budget benefits of growing your own seasonal produce.
  • Foster gardening as a future hobby and basic life skill. Exposure to grounds keeping and gardening would introduce future career pursuits within the green industry.

Implementation of this summer garden project resulted in resourceful activities and new opportunities for our youth to learn, build skills, and develop their interests. Over the past couple of summers the girls at the Jan Shaw Youth Home have grown a variety of things in the garden, including peppers and strawberries.  The girls harvest everything they grow with the assistance of staff members and volunteers.

This year’s project included releasing praying mantis and ladybugs into the garden to get rid of the ants that were taking over some of the plants.

Preying Mantis JS

Lady Bugs JS

Rocky Mountain Youth Resources was a 2012 recipient of RHI Incubator Mini-Grant funding this spring. The gardens’ start date was April 21st and the project will conclude this fall when harvesting of the gardens is complete. RMYR has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Development Council to reach at-risk youth in Lewis & Clark County.

For more information, please contact:

Emily McVey
Program Director

Sanders County BackPack Program

Providing child-friendly, nutritious food during the weekends and holiday breaks

for children battling chronic hunger

In February 2010 Thompson Falls Elementary in conjunction with the Sanders County Health Department, Montana Food Bank Network, and the Rural Health Initiative Incubator Program launched the Backpack Program for their students. The premise of this program is to provide a prepackaged bag of child friendly, nutritious food during the weekends and holiday breaks for children who appear to be battling chronic hunger. The program began its growth by determining if Thompson Falls Elementary was eligible for this opportunity. This was done by examining how many children within the district participate in the Free and Reduced Meal Program. The numbers we found were staggering. Of the 281 students, 68% receive meals through the program. As the requirements for the Backpack Program state that the school must have at least 50% of the population on Free and Reduced Meals, Thompson Falls more than qualified. The next step was finding community support and ensuring school participation. The local newspaper ran an article on the program and through this we received multiple contacts from the community who were interested in volunteering. One of the local churches donated space to store the food, which is delivered on a monthly basis, and the PTO offered their services in distributing and transferring the bags. After all these obstacles fell into place, it was then up to school staff to nominate 30 children for the program. This included children in grades K-6, as well as their younger and older siblings. The teachers, administration, and other employees were given a recommendation form on which they designated a child and listed reasons as to why they felt this student should be placed in the program. A letter was sent home to the parents describing the program and informing them that their child would be bringing home extra food in their backpack on Friday afternoons.

On the 26th of February the first set of bags went home with the children. The response on Monday was very encouraging. Each child was eager for Friday and another package of food, and one child told a heartwarming story about how having extra food on the previous weekend enabled them to go on a family picnic/fishing day. Since then, the program has gone on without interruption. Next year the program will be run for the full duration of the school year, and hopefully serve even more children.


Browning Community Garden

The Browning Community Garden and its partner organizations Blackfeet Manpower VISTA and Blackfeet Academy have been working together for the past 4 years to develop and sustain a community garden for those in the Browning area.

Since this community garden project began four years ago, several different classes ranging from second graders to high school students have participated in various stages of the project. Along with the help of Global Volunteers and the Montana Conservation Corps a compost pile was started and the garden tended to produce several bountiful harvests. Each harvest has been donated to the local food bank whose workers were delighted by the contributions.023

The Browning Community Garden  is part of a community park. The surrounding area has been converted into a more open public place in hopes of increasing the utilization of the garden and creating a more enriching space for the community. Half of the community garden is rented out to community members who want to do their own gardening. The other half is communal. It is used for school and community educational programs, special events and a summer day camp for late elementary and middle school students lead by an Energy Corps member. Every year portions of the garden’s harvest have been donated to the food bank with the remaining veggies going tot he students that help tend the garden. Raised beds have been included in the garden with the hopes of encouraging elderly community members to join in the fun of gardening and not be limited by accessibility challenges.302

The goals of the Browning Community Garden include harvesting 20 plots with the aid of 7-10 students who complete a summer camp focused on building a better future for the garden and themselves. Another goal of the garden is to foster a community gathering atmosphere where students from different generations can come and share their stories and experiences about growing up in Browning. The third goal of the community garden is to encourage interaction and foster relationships between community members of all ages. By involving the elderly community members they hope to build upon a tradition that is being lost; giving elders a chance to share their stores of traditional life and the history of the community and the tribe.Carnival! 027


Contact: Elva Dorsey ecodev@browningcdc.org

PMC logo

Pondera Medical Center Memory Walk Gardens

The Pondera Medical Center partnered with the Conrad Garden Club, Conrad High School Horticulture Class, Conrad High School FFA and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to develop raised garden beds. PMC and its partners created Memory Walk Gardens to foster a space where young and old alike can come together to play, exercise, reflect and grow.PMC logo

This project began in May of 2012 and was completed in December of 2012. The gardens have generated a large amount of support  from both those living and working at the Pondera Medical Center (PMC), families, Conrad High School students and the community. Originally the gardens were just raised beds. However, volunteers rebuilt the in-ground raised beds constructed by the FFA so that they are now mobile. Each bed sits on wheels and can be rolled all over the patio, creating more accessibility for the PMC residents. Soaker hoses were also fixed to the beds to facilitate easier watering. A different group of volunteers made small planters with castor wheels. The Conrad High School Horticulture Class donated vegetable plant starters for the raised beds and assisted in planting the hanging baskets for the patio.

PMC residents spent the summertime hours watching and helping the garden grow. They were able to sample lettuce, basil, tomatoes and carrots as well as cut flowers from the patio area. The residents used the peppers and tomatoes from the garden to make fresh salsa. The leaves from the rhubarb plants were used for some fun arts and crafts projects. PMC residents made leaf impressions in cement mixtures and formed bird baths and stepping-stones for the garden.