Rice Street Garden: Vegetables and Community Flourishing Together

IMG_9694The Rice Street Garden is a community garden with a mission to unite diverse populations by providing the opportunity for families to grow healthy, organic foods in their own neighborhood. The garden sits on two acres of land and has 200 garden plots, all of which are filled. It is conveniently located between Maplewood, Roseville and St. Paul, and is within easy walking distance for many of its gardeners. Numerous community organizations, including the Institute, have partnered with the Galilee Lutheran Church to ensure the success of community garden.

Many of the Institute’s students and clients live in housing that has no access to green space. This can be a shock to the system when many families grew up with the outdoors as an integral part of their life. The Rice Street Garden has provided them an opportunity to get back outdoors and reconnect with the earth. It also helps with grocery bills, allowing clients to grow their own fruit and vegetables instead of buying them at a store.

Community Gardeners Gather in Potluck LineOn April 30th the church hosted a potluck where gardeners were invited to meet their neighbors and receive their plot assignments. The garden leaders went over the rules and regulations of the space (for example, no pets and no “borrowing” from your neighbor). Because the community garden is welcoming to New Americans, three interpreters translated into Hmong, Karen, and Nepali.  The potluck that followed the meeting was a delicious opportunity to experience foods from other cultures.

After lunch, everyone ventured across the street to the gardens to see their plot assignments for the first time. Once everyone found their plots, they were free to begin gardening. Everyone was eager to start.

As people settled into there designated plots, conversations spread all over the gardens. Some people asked for advice while others began friendly exchanges.

IMG_9737Jake, a financial coach at the Institute, is an experienced gardener.  When he heard about the Rice Street Garden, he was excited to have the opportunity to spend time in nature while getting to know New Americans outside of his work at the Institute. The plot adjacent to Jake’s plot belongs to a Hmong family, and while Jake was rototilling his land, the family was tilling theirs by hand. Despite Jake’s technological advantage, the family finished their tilling first.

The community garden is a great way to meet new people and learn more about the community. Twenty of the 200 plots were reserved for New Americans served by the Institute. They are excited to be outside and to save money by growing their own produce. Everyone involved in the garden is excited to see what it will produce.

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