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Community garden in De Pere ready for growing season

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – Within a few weeks, begloved green-thumbers will be sinking their spades into the earth at Lions Trailside Park and placing their tomato and pea seedlings in meticulously spaced rows.

They’ll sigh, “Ahhh, summer,” and the reason they’ve endured the Wisconsin winter will become clear to them: It’s gardening time, and all is right with the world.

City officials, Lions Club members, and Brown County UW-Extension staff marked the completion of the gardens Tuesday with the traditional gold-shovel ceremony.

“I’m thankful that our community was able to come together to launch a project like this,” said De Pere Mayor Mike Walsh.

The community garden project at De Pere’s Lions Trailside Park, 863 Killarny Trail, is one harvest that didn’t require a long growing season.

Just last fall, Lions Club Secretary Abbey Hill and UW-Extension Community Gardens Coordinator Margaret Franchino brought the idea for the gardens before the De Pere Common Council.

At last fall’s presentation to the Common Council, Franchino cited the benefits of working cooperatively with others, being outdoors, and adding fresh, local vegetables to one’s diet.

Gardening can be good exercise as well as a good reducer of stress, she said, and community gardens have a way of encouraging those who know more about gardening to share advice with those who know less about it.

Gardeners won’t have to lug jugs of water from home, because the Lions Club donated a 1,100-gallon water tank to the garden site.

Gardeners bring their own buckets and fill them at the tank’s spigot.

The city keeps the tank filled, said Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Marty Kosobucki.

But planting, weeding, trimming and harvesting? That’s up to the individual gardener.

The site has some 25 garden plots, including 10 plots measuring 200 square feet and 15 plots measuring 400 square feet.

The fees to rent a plot for the season are $15 and $25, respectively. (Less than the cost of two beers and four hotdogs at Miller Park.)

“Our program is aimed at people with lower incomes, so we’re keeping the prices low to appeal to them,” Franchino said.

Individual plots will be roped off, with aisles to walk placed between each plot, so gardeners don’t have to squish their neighbor’s squash to get to their own cabbage patch.

The UW-Extension launched the community gardens project 23 years ago in an effort to provide fresh, high-quality food to people with low to medium incomes or those living in food deserts.

The USDA defines food deserts as neighborhoods or areas of the country that have no grocery stores or fresh food coops within a mile of where people live.

Since its foray into Brown County, the community garden project has spread to 10 communities throughout Brown County, with a total of around 350 garden plots that people can rent.

Until now, De Pere was one of the only cities in the county without a community garden program, according to Franchino, who said there had been a lot of interest and requests for such an offering in De Pere.

But don’t get too excited yet. Already, 19 plots have been spoken for, Franchino said.

Those interested in getting involved can contact the Brown County UW-Extension at 920-391-4660 or email [email protected].

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