A garden full of color and life may simply seem like a nice addition to a landscape, but one like the Grow to Share Community Garden in River Falls has the power to end hunger and harvest generations of inspiration for the outdoors and healthy eating.
For people who may not have access to fresh and locally-grown foods or struggle to buy them on their own, the community garden at the end of Hanson Drive provides much-desired nutritious produce each summer.
Volunteers tend the garden and harvest the vegetables nearly twice a week.
"It's really a cool group," UW-Extension Horticulture Educator Diana Alfuth said. "They're very dedicated to helping the community."
Plots are available for independent gardeners to rent and grow their own produce.
"There's a big interest in getting back to nature and getting back to your own food production," Alfuth said. "There was a big resurgence in 'grow-your-own' in 2008 when the economy crashed."
Along with nutritiously benefiting from the garden, locals of all ages with any level of gardening understanding may benefit mentally by getting involved with gardening classes. Lessons are taught on how to work the soil with the help of Master Gardeners trained by UW-Extension in the UW-Extension Demonstration and Learning Garden.
"We are happy that we have an area at the Grow to Share community garden to grow our educational garden," Alftuh said. "Our goal is to grow gardeners."
Avid gardeners may also benefit from the classes, learning new techniques and discussing struggles that crop up during the growing season.
Pest and weed control, organic growing methods, maintenance, trellising and harvesting are topics covered by the classes. Trials and experiments are also undertaken within a section of the garden where various species are evaluated during the season.
With each summer comes an imaginative theme in Alfuth's Demonstration Garden.
"We always try to pick educational themes every year that are just fun," Alfuth said.
This year was a storybook plot full of characters and props representing a "Tale of Peter Rabbit" theme following the February release of the new animated film "Peter Rabbit." There, children have the opportunity to be outdoors while getting in some light reading by viewing the signs and illustrations pulled from the original story.
They've featured everything from a Presidential Garden in 2006, where species of a few presidents' choice were grown including Barack Obama's; a checkerboard full of red and green lettuce; a Hispanic garden; and a Native American garden where old varieties of species were grown using native methods.
Alfuth said the children who are in the garden are more likely to eat vegetables, and adults can benefit from the stress-relieving activity and reap a healthier lifestyle.
The Demonstration Garden's harvested goods are also donated to those in need, including food pantries and senior citizen centers. Excess produce is distributed to other food programs, Alfuth said.
Alfuth may be contacted at Pierce County UW-Extension with the phone number 715-273-6781.