Started in 2008, the Big Timber Community Garden has a goal of providing nutritious and fresh produce to the community of Big Timber. Many gardeners give a portion of their harvest to the community food bank, the senior center, or sell at the farmer’s market.
- What is the health and wellness or prevention project or initiative your organization or community has conducted? We were part of the Horizons Program sponsored by MSU in 2007. All of the participants identified food issues as an important need to be addressed.
- Please describe the project. When Sweet Grass Food started as a result of the Horizons Program, we felt a Community Garden was the easiest and fastest way to make a difference in our community. It has been a real volunteer effort to organize, fence, hook up water, lay out the plots, purchase necessary equipment, etc. All costs were covered early-on by a grant from Horizons Program and later from donations from the public. We see this as an ongoing program. In 2013 we renewed our lease for the land from the City of Big Timber for another 5 years.
- What are some key factors that make it a success? Volunteers, gardeners, plots are free, water is free to gardeners (paid for by donations to Sweet Grass Food), the tremendous diversity of folks who have plots.
- Who in the community participates? We have children’s plots, raised beds, semi-raised beds, plots on the ground, and participation from 93 years to 8 years old. There are 50 plots and all have been planted.
Garden Success Story
The City of Big Timber was part of the Horizon’s Program sponsored by MSU in 2007. Participants were asked to identify needs of poverty in our community (poverty was defined as something missing or necessary for the well-being of the community). Every group identified food as a need. Several from the program went to work on their own to put together a plan for making a difference. We presented a plan to the Horizon’s Program and were given grant money to get started. The first project was to identify a plot of ground and we found a vacant lot owned by the City. When the city said they would lease for 5 years, we used some of the grant money to have the field excavated, rocks removed, and dirt added. Next we purchased fencing materials to put at the perimeter of the lot and a person in the community who does fencing for his business volunteered his time to guide others and put up the fence. We then paid the City to put in the water line, and another person who does irrigation for his business volunteered to lay out lines and put in spigots at various spots in the garden for watering (the irrigation system has since been improved and can now be used to water fruit trees, currants and grapes). We purchased a garden shed, had a bulletin board built, and the grade school art class painted the sign while the high school installed the sign on their community service day. The garden has taken on a life of its own. We have a “Harvest Feast” every fall and at that event we have a “Garden Growing Contest” sponsored by our local nursery (Blake Nursery). Gardeners plan the whole summer for what they will enter for best cucumber, heaviest tomato, longest zucchini, biggest onion, most herbs, best kids garden, tallest sunflower, and so forth. It is a great time and there are prizes for each. In 2011 we added the Great Pumpkin Contest where two gardeners pampered a couple of pumpkin plants and grew two at 217 lbs. and 247 lbs. respectively. The seeds for 2012’s pumpkins came from a 1400 lb pumpkin. Needless to say everyone is watching. The contest last year was at Citizen’s Bank in town – how we get the pumpkins to the bank will be a challenge. One of the nicest things about the garden is being there in the evening when most gardeners are watering, weeding, etc. and visiting. People who otherwise would not know each other are there getting acquainted. The Big Timber Community Garden is a great success. Another project of Sweet Grass Food is the Sweet Grass Food Producers Guide where we have compiled contact information about many of our local growers so we can buy things from them and support our own economy and community.
For more information, visit the website at http://www.sweetgrassfood.org.