Tucked away behind a hardware store and in between several Storm Lake, Iowa, housing developments, sits a freshly planted 4.5-acre garden project organized by “The Bridge of Storm Lake,” a non-profit organization that serves growing immigrant communities.
Supported in part through a $2,500 outreach grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The Bridge Garden Training Project brings together many community businesses, organizations and individuals. The land is on loan to the project from a local church and the hardware store.
The Bridge hopes neighborhood residents, working alongside experienced volunteers, will learn skills to apply in other community or home-based gardens. “We plan to train those in the neighborhood to care for a garden, harvest it and then prepare the produce,” said Jill Engelmann, the organization’s volunteer coordinator.
The large garden plot includes dozens of rows of vegetables including peas, beans, radishes, sweet corn, three types of lettuce, chives, white onions, yellow onion, carrots, squash, tomatoes and peppers.
Volunteers from the local Buena Vista University and fourth-graders from Storm Lake Elementary planted the seeds. The harvested vegetables will be distributed to the volunteers and through The Bridge’s weekly food distribution to local immigrant families in need.
“We aren’t sure how much food we will have, but we’ve also discussed taking some to the local farmer’s market,” said Englemann.
In addition to providing locally grown, healthy food and food production education, the garden boasts a corn maze and pumpkin patch as entertainment at the fall festival.
“For 80 years, NRCS has taught the importance of soil and connecting food to this important resource,” said Renae Nicholson – NRCS Hispanic Emphasis Program Manager who coordinated the USDA grant for the garden project. “NRCS is proud to support the Hispanic and refugee communities and volunteers involved as we work together to be good stewards of the land.”