Building A Garden Together

Growing a Healthy Community

Building A Garden Together

Written By Contributing Guest Writer: Kate Scheffler

It is that wonderful time of year with changing leaves, crisp mornings, and roaring combines. This year, local farmers weren’t the only ones harvesting their crops, as the Kasson Clinic community garden has had quite the kick-off season. As part of the Dodge Refreshed initiative, which promotes healthy living throughout the community, the Kasson Clinic community garden was started.

The community garden has brought the people of Dodge County together in a hands-on, healthy way. Last year, the Kasson Clinic Worksite Wellness Champion Meg Bryngelson-Lambert thought that the flower beds located in front of the Kasson Clinic looked a little sparse.  Recognizing an opportunity to engage the clinic staff in healthy behaviors and community collaboration, Meg offered to lead and organize the community garden project.  With the aid of Liz Olive, the Community Engagement Coordinator, they collaborated with the Kasson Public Library, the Dodge County Master Gardeners and other members of the community to get the project started.

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The impact of the Kasson Clinic community garden has been extremely positive. Through the efforts of the Public Library, the children who participated in story time reading had the opportunity to plant and harvest the vegetables in the garden. Involving children from the library’s story time in the process of gardening has sparked excitement in them about growing and eating healthy foods.  Ingvild Herfindahl, The Children’s Librarian at the Kasson Public Library, participated in the planting process and stated, “There’s a big difference between selecting a vegetable from the grocery store and being able to pick it yourself from the garden. Kids especially are much more eager to try something that they helped to plant and harvest.” The community garden presented an opportunity for families to come together and participate in both the planting and harvesting of the wide variety of vegetables in the garden. These social events taught people the importance of eating healthy, as well as the different types of vegetables and herbs planted in the garden.

The produce grown in the community garden was available to all community members.  Marian Kleiwort, Dodge County Coordinator for the Master Gardeners, took part in the project by offering advice on what plants to put in the garden, as well as donating some of the seeds. When asked about the community project she stated, “Planting the garden was an enjoyable experience that has hopefully taught people a healthier way of eating and the value of fresh produce.” In addition to teaching the benefits of healthy eating, the collaboration between the Kasson Public Library and the Kasson Clinic has benefited by making the clinic a less scary place for children. It has further spread the idea that the clinic is a place for health promotion and not just for sick care.

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One reason why the garden has been so successful is that the Kasson Clinic is currently in the process of a paradigm shift that focuses on helping people become more proactive about their health through healthy behaviors and lifestyles. This shift connects well with the Dodge Refreshed initiative, which encourages people to be aware of their health and promotes community involvement. The Kasson Clinic staff has been essential to the success of the project. Staff members helped maintain the gardens by watering, picking produce, and weeding. Staff members also act as role models for the patients by explaining how to use the produce.  Local community members were also an important asset.

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They donated plants to the garden and also volunteered to harvest the fresh vegetables throughout the summer. Houston’s Greenhouse was generous enough to donate plants and other supplies, while Sargent’s Nursery donated soil to fill the raised garden beds. Reflecting on the experience, Ingvild stated, “The community garden has been an opportunity to bring different people together—young families, the Master Gardeners, clinic employees—to work on a project that truly benefits the whole community.” Both the community of Kasson and Mayo Clinic look forward to making the community garden an annual project.