Heritage Center helps sponsor community garden project

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In March, Kyle Gassman of Monticello took on a project to better the community.

     Gassman, who works at the Monticello Public Library, wanted to see raised garden beds offered to area residents, community groups, school kids, etc. The idea would be to plant and grow produce. As an avid gardener, Gassman said the project would not only benefit those who grow their own food, but the community as a whole by donating some of the produce to the Monticello Food Pantry.

     After seeking local interest in the project, Gassman and his committee are now anticipating seeing their goal become a reality.

     Thanks to the support of the Monticello Heritage Center committee, the community garden project now has financial backing to accept donations, grants, etc. The committee includes: Dave and Penny Schoon, Bob Hendricks, Deb Bowman, and Kaye Junion.

     “I met with the Heritage committee and they agreed to be the fiscal sponsor,” said Gassman. “There is a pretty extensive list of grants we could apply for.”

     The 4-by-8 feet raised garden beds will be located on the plot of land north of the Heritage Center. There is potentially room for 30 raised beds, 36 inches off the ground, with 4-foot walkways in between.

     “This allows us to move forward with fundraising,” added Gassman. “Any donations will be tax deductible.”

     To purchase the materials and have the beds built in time for a May planting, Gassman said their initial fundraising goal is $7,500. This would include building materials and planting materials such a soil, seeds, etc. Gassman previously researched various types of materials in which to build the raised beds. He said galvanized corrugated metal would be the best versus hardwood.

     It is still being discussed whether volunteers who wish to take care of a garden bed would be asked to pay a minimum fee or not, to help with the maintenance costs.

     Gassman said the first goal is to get the beds in place. Down the line, he said enclosing the area with a fence would be a nice addition, depending on the funding.

     There are many benefits in gardening, the biggest encouraging people to get outside and getting them active. Gassman is planning to partner with the Heritage Center to host garden experts for speaking engagements. He has also reached out to the Master Gardeners and Iowa State Extension for educational components as well.

     “There is a lot of benefits for kids with a project like this,” he said, namely involving math, designing a layout plan, following through with your plan, and seeing the natural progression of the food as it grows.

     “It could be an educational tool for kids and families,” encouraged Gassman.

     He said in the future, he would like to see food preparation classes offered for the volunteers so they could learn how to cook and prepare meals with what they grow.

     There are some stipulations for those who choose to adopt a raised garden. Gassman said you must keep the garden well tended throughout the season. The vegetation would be limited to flowers and produce; not perennials.

     “We don’t want something that comes back year after year,” warned Gassman. “Our focus will be growing produce primarily, not ornamental gardens.”

     Donations toward the community garden project can be mailed or dropped off at the Monticello Public Library, c/o the Heritage Center, 205 E. Grand St., Monticello, IA 52310. For more details on the project, contact Gassman at the library (319-465-3354) or by e-mail (kyle.gassman52310@gmail.com).


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