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NL pantry garden project gets off the ground with ribbon cutting

Jorge Lopez and Gerry Kuhl, both of North Liberty, cut the ribbon to celebrate the first season of the North Liberty Community Pantry’s teaching garden Saturday, April 25, in North Liberty. (photo by Lori Lindner) MORE PHOTOS

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty Community Pantry is ready to cultivate a new generation of gardeners.
Community members officially celebrated the pantry’s new project, the Growing Together Garden, with a ribbon cutting, poetry reading and tree planting on Saturday, April 25. Funded by a $38,850 grant from the Wellmark Foundation and matching dollars raised throughout the community, as well as in-kind donations of time, materials and labor, the garden is an extension of the pantry’s services to provide food to those in need.
With a variety of produce and fruit raised, tended and harvested by garden volunteers, the project will provide fresh and healthy options for pantry consumers. In addition, with raised accessible beds, a large adjacent patio and extra wide paths between plots, the garden will offer a number of educational opportunities to teach clients and community visitors how to garden and how to raise vegetables in limited spaces like patio containers. Other workshops will teach ways to prepare and serve more garden produce in everyday meals and how to properly store, freeze and preserve vegetables and fruits. Finally, working in the garden will reconnect people with their food sources and recreate positive relationships with food, said Garden Coordinator Ilsa DeWald.
“We are working to create a garden that provides hands-on education about gardening, cooking, and healthy eating in ways to turn these tasks from chores into fun community-building activities. The garden will grow fruits and vegetables to provide healthy, local foods for our food insecure neighbors,” said DeWald
Participants in the April 25 ribbon cutting also planted two trees at the garden site, next to the pantry and the First United Methodist Church at 89 Jones Blvd. Pantry Director Tina DuBois said six fruit trees will be planted yet this spring, in addition to the wide variety of produce that will be harvested throughout the growing season. Eventually, the garden will include perennial crops like asparagus, raspberries, grapes and rhubarb.
The garden’s name was the result of a community-wide naming contest. Both former North Liberty Mayor Gerry Kuhl and his neighbor, Jorge Lopez, submitted the name “Growing Together Garden,” the winner of all the submissions.
Additional volunteer days are now scheduled, said Garden Coordinator Ilsa DeWald.
“If anyone is interested in volunteering regularly, they should attend our volunteer orientation on May 11 from 1-3 p.m. at the pantry. Email garden@northlibertycommunitypantry.org to sign up for orientation, or check out the pantry website for more information about the garden project and volunteering: northlibertycommunitypantry.org/garden/.
“All educational events and volunteer times are opportunities to give back to the community and bridge gaps by learning together,” said DeWald. She said the community response has been overwhelming so far.
“I have found people to be very receptive to the needs of the project, and they have found ways to contribute where they can. I hope the shine never wears off, and that people will still be as excited, even in the heat of summer,” DeWald said.