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Community Gardens Grow More Than Vegetables

July 1, 2012, 10:02 PM by Hailey Higgins

Community Gardens Grow More Than Vegetables

Community Gardens are springing up across Sioux Falls as more groups work together to beautify their neighborhoods and eat healthier.

However, the gardeners are growing a sense of community along with flowers and vegetables too.

After surviving three heart attacks, Rita Koob has more health struggles than most people. And this summer, she's finding a reason to leave the house.

"Otherwise I'd sit on the porch all day and read," Koob said. "This way I get to meet people and visit. It's wonderful."

Across the street from her home, Koob tends her plot in one of nine community gardens in Sioux Falls nearly five times a day.

"What you pay for a packet of seeds or the four pack of tomatoes, you can only get one tomato, if that, for the price," Koob said. "So it's really going to pay for itself."

This new garden is an idea from the Sioux Falls Urban Development office to add a sense of community in Pettigrew Heights. It sits on the site of the old Lincoln Elementary School and grows on donated land from the Sioux Falls School District.

It gives Ron Andersen a chance to try out his green thumb.

"[I'm growing] lettuce, carrots, green beans, just a little variety of stuff," Andersen said.

Like Koob, his backyard isn't able to grow a garden but he's finding success on his sunny eight by 20 foot plot.

"When it's supper time, time to eat, you grab what you need and take it back home to eat it," Andersen said.

More than 200 people are growing vegetables and flowers this year in Sioux Falls community gardens. There is even a waiting list to get a plot.

"I think it's a resurgence," Minnehaha County Master Gardeners Community Gardens Coordinator Karin Woltjer said. "When food prices started to go up a couple of years ago, people were looking to economize and growing your own produce is one way to do that."

In the shadow of the Avera McKennen campus, a community garden sprouts up for the second year. The St. Isador Garden is tended by nearly 60 hospital employees.

"It allows them to come to work early and get out in the garden and have a peaceful moment before work, during work, and come out her and reap the benefits from a garden," Avera Health Management Coordinator Lacey Seeveldt said.

Seeveldt says gardening taps into all dimensions of wellness for the mind, body and spirit. But Avera gardeners aren't the only ones benefiting from their dedication.

"We have some people who have strictly reserved a plot to donate their produce," Seeveldt said. "And we have others who are sharing with their families, their coworkers and friends."

And in Pettigrew Heights, these gardeners say their biggest benefit is the blossoming friendships between neighbors. Now, they're sharing growing tips and produce with new found friends.

"[I have] a lot of friends up here. I've met a lot of new people and I'm having a lot of fun, too," Andersen said.

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