June 23, 2020

The community garden project that began in 2013 at Grinnell Regional Medical Center has bloomed into 11 Giving Gardens–nine in the city of Grinnell and two in Brooklyn.
The Giving Gardens are a collaborative effort of local organizations and individuals to improve the health of Poweshiek County residents by providing access to fresh, local produce. During the growing season, the Giving Gardens depend on volunteers to plan, plant, maintain, and harvest at each site.

Local gardener and volunteer organizer Chad Nath initiated the 2013 garden and has since nurtured the growth of new gardens throughout each of his roles in the community. As current LINK childcare program director, Nath says his favorite role may be the “education and training for children.” Four of the gardens are at learning center sites used by the LINK child learning program.
“We incorporate the gardens into our programming so when the children grow up, they can be gardeners too,” Nath said. “Each site operates independently, and the available produce varies, depending on size and plans of the volunteer gardeners. For example, Summer St. Garden is the largest, and Marvin Garden in south Grinnell also includes an apple orchard and berry bushes.”
Grants from a variety of sources have spurred the gardens’ growth and available tools, Nath says, listing grants from Hy-Vee, Theisens, Grinnell College, and Imagine Grinnell, in addition to grants from the Healthy State Initiative, Iowa Department of Public Health, and ISU Extension.

Jennifer Cogley, VISTA volunteer and Giving Gardens facilitator, encourages anyone in the community to pickup vegetables from the gardens.

“The gardens are a true grassroots community activity, offering free, fresh produce to anyone in the community,” Cogley said. Produce from each site is also delivered to locations where community members can receive it at no cost, such as MICA, Station Clubhouse, Brookside Housing, the Senior Center, Brookside Housing, and Station Clubhouse.

Since 2016, more than 2000 pounds of produce have been delivered to MICA and another ton delivered to other locations, in addition to the produce harvested by individuals who pick their own produce at no cost. Available produce is announced on Facebook pages for Imagine Grinnell; Hey, Grinnell did you know; and the individual garden Facebook pages listed below.

Both volunteers and donations are needed in order to keep the gardens growing and shared at no cost with the community. Interested volunteers should first complete the online form at https://imaginegrinnell.org/join-us/. Donors may contribute online at https://ahrensfamilyfoundation.org/donate-online/ or mail checks payable to Grinnell Giving Gardens, P.O. Box 284, Grinnell IA 50112.

Current Giving Gardens locations and contacts include:

Ahrens Park Garden, 1510 Penrose, maintained by the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, contact Chad Nath 236-5518 with inquiries, or Claude W. & Dolly Ahrens Foundation/Ahrens Park Foundation

Bailey Park Elementary Garden, 210 8th Ave., maintained by students, staff, and volunteers, contact Josh Smith, school principal, 236-2770, or on Facebook at Bailey Park Elementary School

Davis Elementary School, 818 Hamilton, maintained by students, staff, and volunteers, contact Brian Conway, school principal, 236-2786, or on Facebook at Davis Elementary

Fairview Elementary Garden,1310 Hobart St., maintained by students, staff, and volunteers, contact Sarah Seney, school principal, 236-2780, or on Facebook at Fairview Elementary-Grinnell Newburg School District

Grinnell Community Early Learning Center Garden,1436 Penrose, maintained by volunteers at the Grinnell Community Early Learning Center, contact Valerie Steinbach 236-7214

Marvin Garden, near Arbor Lake, maintained by volunteers with Imagine Grinnell, contact Vanessa Preast at imaginegrinnell@gmail.com, or on Facebook at Imagine Grinnell

St. John’s Lutheran Church Garden, 1224 East St., maintained by volunteers from St. John’s, contact Lamoyne Gaard, 236-4946, or on Facebook at Hey, Grinnell did you know

Summer Street Garden, 736 Summer St., maintained by the Rotary Club, contact Brent Nickel, Nickel.brent@gmail.com, 641-990-1616, or on Rotary Facebook page

Landes Park and Manatt’s headquarters, Brooklyn, maintained by Manatt’s employees contact them on Facebook at Brooklyn Community Garden

Grinnell Giving Gardens is a program partner of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation which manages funds and provides back office services for the gardens.