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Big bounty at community garden

The Waupaca Community Garden Thedacare location produced a bounty of vegetables for its first season. Participants grew food for their own table and to be donated to local charities. Volunteers closed out the season with a day of raking and mulching. Submitted Photo

Growing season ends on high note

By James Card

The blue-ribbon cabbage the size of a basketball that took first place at the Waupaca County Fair was grown on a small patch of land near ThedaCare Medical Center.

The cabbage was grown in the Waupaca Community Garden on the corner of Riverside Drive and 10th Street.

Behind its fence, the garden has about the same footprint as a three-car garage. This small plot of land produced an enormous amount of food throughout spring, summer and early autumn.

In years past, the community garden donated more than 500 pounds of produce to the Waupaca Area Food Pantry and Bread Basket.

On Friday, Oct. 20, volunteers closed out the growing season by pulling tomato plants loaded with green tomatoes that were too stubborn to ripen. There was no school on Friday because of a teacher work day so some students were there to lend helping hands.

They tilled and raked the soil in raised beds so they were ready for next year and added cardboard mulch. They pulled weeds and underfoot they crunched thousands of acorns fallen from the large nearby oak tree.

This was the first summer for cultivation on the ThedaCare property. The garden is run by the Living the Waupaca Way Coalition.

“We do a lot of community projects. This is something we wanted to bring the community on board with. Christi [Gabrilska] got a FoodWise grant this year to bring the children’s garden that used to be at Swan Park over to over here. It’s convenient because the school is right over here and kids can come over,” said Beverly Hall.

Hall said that ThedaCare has been a generous host to the garden. The clinic’s maintenance crews take care of the gardeners well with water, hoses and lots of help.

This year they grew tomatoes, kale, herbs, cabbage, squash, spinach, peppers and other vegetable. They also have some resident perennials like asparagus and rhubarb.

Foodwise grant

“We wrote a grant for Foodwise to bring over the Master Gardeners Children’s Garden program. When the location was at Swan Park it was run through the Park and Rec center and families had to pay to be involved. Through the coalition and FoodWise, our target audience is individuals with limited resources that are eligible to participant in the food-share program,” said Gabrilska, the FoodWise nutrition coordinator.

The FoodWise grant helped purchase the vegetable seeds and the coalition was able to secure some flowering plants. They had seven families participate and each child got their own square-foot garden [a raised bed divided by square-foot grids] and they shared the center with the other side of the garden. Master Gardeners helped educate participants on what to plant and then it was the child’s and family’s responsibility to come and take care of the garden.

“It’s an opportunity for kids to see what their food looks like in a garden as to what it looks like in a grocery store,” said Gabrilska.

Waupaca County Master Gardeners aided as volunteers and provided their expert advice. They also collaborated with the Waupaca Area Public Library, 4-H and the Arts Hub. Waupaca Area All-Stars also participated and worked on their own raised beds.

They set aside garden plots dedicated to filling the Little Free Pantry at the Waupaca Library. It’s like the Little Lending Library concept instead of donating a book or taking a book, one might add some carrots and take out a rutabaga.

Living the Waupaca Way will be rebranded as Be Well Waupaca and also will merge with the You Belong Initiative, a network in the community that focuses on social belonging.

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