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Community garden to open, plots available

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It’s been a rough start at the Lakes Area Community Garden, but committee members are optimistic this season will reap plenty of produce.

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Every plot was under water last year after the land flooded.

Just in its second year, the garden, located southwest of Kiwanis Park near the Mississippi River, was left without a harvest and in need of repair.

This year, however, committee members say plans will go smoothly.

“Last year’s flooding was a pretty rare occurrence,” said Lakes Area Community Garden committee member Tad Hoskins.

The group is offering free plots to those gardeners who were flooded out. So far, 20 people have taken advantage of that.

The community garden was initiated in 2009 by members of the Blandin Community Leadership Program training program.

The initiative is currently being spearheaded by the Lakes Area Community Garden Committee, made up of representatives from the community.

There are still half of the 66 plots available to rent. Three of the four handicapped-accessible plots may still be rented.

Most of the open plots are on the lower part of the garden.

The size of the plots is a little bigger this year than the first, growing from 5 feet by 10 feet initially, to 5 feet by 24 feet.

Members of the Brainerd Rotary and Sertoma clubs maintain four plots, and the produce is donated to the soup kitchen and food shelf. The groups donated 1,700 pounds of food the first year.

Even with the late start to spring, there isn’t any effect on the grounds — just the minds of the potential growers.

Gardening hasn’t been on the minds of residents lately, said committee member Anne Nelson Fisher.

“It’s hard to commit to a garden when snow is on the ground,” she said.

That will change soon, said Tony Sailer, committee member and director of the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department, as the warm weather continues.

Plot rentals are expected to pick up.

“Now is the time. People are going to be thinking about it,” Hoskins said.

Eventually, the group would like to add more community gardens throughout Brainerd and Baxter.

“If we get enough interest to fill this garden, then we can get gardeners to take over management of it and we can then solicit more funding and replicate the idea in more areas,” Hoskins said.

Until then, it’s business as usual at the Lakes Area Community Garden.

The land should be tilled by mid-May so early planters can get their hands in the dirt. A crew will then set up stakes and water lines.

If a resident wants a plot but cannot afford it, they can enroll in the sweat equity program, where they volunteer their time in the garden, by making arrangements with the Brainerd Parks and Recreation staff.

The committee will hold an educational session from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 8, where the group will be on-site to help gardeners with any plot questions.

Rent a garden plot:

Cost: $20

Size: 5 by 24

Contact: The Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department 218-828-2320

Volunteer at the garden: Contact Tad Hoskins by email at tad@brainerdhandyman.com or 218-838-7617

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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