Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Getting ready to sprout

Community gardens to help low-income families in Dakota County.

Dakota County Public Health recently awarded nine mini-grants for up to $2,000 for community gardens to grow produce for low-income families. Families and volunteers will use the gardens to grow produce for their families or to help local food shelves.

One of the programs serves as a great model. It will allow volunteers from The Eagan Resource Center to grow more than 5,000 pounds of vegetables for its local food shelf. The group will also provide plots for more than 20 low-income families.

Dakota County was able to give out the almost $18,000 worth of mini-grants for the community gardens because of funding it received from the State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) through the Minnesota Department of Health. The SHIP provides grants to organizations such as Dakota County to fund a variety of programs designed to reduce obesity, tobacco use, and chronic diseases.

The community gardens funded through the mini-grants will increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for Dakota County residents at high risk for obesity and chronic disease, including those who cannot afford them.

Dakota County is working closely with Gardening Matters, a local non-profit dedicated to promoting and preserving community gardens in Minnesota to administer the grants.

Gardening Matters will also host monthly networking meetings in Dakota County starting this spring to assist gardeners and hold the Sixth Annual Community Garden Spring Resource Fair on Saturday, March 27, at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. The fair will include workshops, activities for kids, and educational displays.

The keynote speaker for the fair is Ashley Atkinson, director of project development and urban agriculture at The Greening of Detroit, a group dedicated to planting trees and plants throughout Detroit’s neighborhoods, boulevards and parks. Atkinson will talk about how the group strengthens neighborhood-based food production.

For more information about Gardening Matters visit or contact Kelsey Barale at or 612-492-8964.

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