KINGFIELD — It’s hard to think about gardening in frigid February, when hoes, rakes and seeds are stowed away and snow blankets frozen plots, but green thumbs are buzzing right now in one Southwest neighborhood.
Following up on years of resident interest, the Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KFNA) this spring will launch two community gardens, one on the Center for Performing Arts property at 3754 Pleasant Ave. S. and the second on another private lot at 3912 Van Nest Ave. The sites will serve as the first of four community gardens KFNA would eventually like to develop in the area.
“Our goal is really to create a network of gardens and gardeners throughout the neighborhood,” said KFNA executive director Sarah Linnes-Robinson.
The opportunity to create the gardens was realized last year when the Kingfield Farmer’s Market split from the neighborhood association and became its own entity, Linnes-Robinson said. KFNA started looking at new ways to bring fresh food into the neighborhood and decided to pursue growing produce as an option.
Through community outreach done during the development of its neighborhood-funding plan, KFNA knew there had long been an interest in making fresh veggies and fruit available in the community. An informal survey posted online last year to gauge interest in the creation of community gardens to meet that need overwhelmingly assured the organization that it was headed in the right direction.
So, with a $1,500 climate-change micro grant from the city, the neighborhood group set out to find and organize the sites. Linnes-Robinson said she initially thought finding available land would be tough, but the neighborhood soon located several potential plots. The two selected sites had owners who were enthusiastic about the project and ample sun-bathed property.
The Van Nest site is planned for a lot owned by KFNA board member JobyLynn Sassily-James, who lives next door.
“I’m really into sustainable agriculture and growing things close to home,” said Sassily-James, who also has a garden of her own maintained through a local program called Backyard Harvest.
She expects the new garden to serve as a community builder that offers residents without the means for their own gardens a chance to get their hands dirty and grow their own food. She plans to use it, too, and incorporate a rowboat or bathtub garden in honor of her great grandmother who used to plant in boats to keep gophers at bay.
The Van Nest garden will have nine 10-foot-by-10-foot plots and the Pleasant Avenue site will have 12 plots the same size. Each garden will also have a common area and seating. Gardeners interested in a plot need to fill out an application with KFNA by April 1 and pay a fee of $75. That secures a plot for one year. If the organization gets more applicants than there are plots, it will draw names in a lottery.
KFNA will act as the fiscal agent and general garden manager, but each group of gardeners will also elect a site manager. Aside from maintaining their plots — on which they can grow whatever they choose within reason (no invasive plants) — garden users will be responsible for the general upkeep of the sites. Support gardeners, those who do not own plots but would like to help maintain the gardens, are also being sought.
Each site will have tools, a shed and water access.
Linnes-Robinson said she expects an overflow of applications, but wanted to remind eager gardeners about the challenges of the project’s first year.
“Gardeners coming in this year will have to realize that startup is significant,” she said. “We have to till these entire sites and stake them out. You’re not coming into something that’s already going to be there. You need to want to be part of creating it.”
Ila Duntemann, program coordinator for community garden support group Gardening Matters, helped KFNA prepare its vision for the sites and said demand is growing throughout the metro for such ventures.
“We have a strong history in the metro of community gardens,” she said. “But there’s definitely been a big surge and right now there aren’t enough community gardens to meet the demand.”
The reasons for the trend are mixed and every neighborhood has its own idea of what a community garden should be, Duntemann said, but a desire for fresh, homegrown food is definitely a factor. Her group’s goal is to make sure they all thrive.
“We want the existing gardens to be strong and viable and we want the ones that are starting up to begin with a really strong foundation,” she said.
For more information on the Kingfield community gardens, or to apply for a plot, go to kingfield.org/green/community gardens.
Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Senate District 60 DFL is sponsoring a candidate forum for the three DFL candidates running for the 60A seat in the state House of Representatives. The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb. 14 at Jefferson Community School, 1200 W. 26th St. It’s free and open to the public.