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Community garden grows into reality

| July 7, 2004 12:00 AM

By Paul Boring, Western News Reporter

Libby residents who have visited the new community garden on City Service Road have seen firsthand the product of unfettered hard work and cooperation.

Karla McCabe of Northwest Montana Human Resources has been involved with the push to start a community garden in Libby since the project¹s inception.

³Our main office in Kalispell had put together a community garden in the late-90s and we thought this would be a good special project for us in Libby,² McCabe said. ³In March we started talking about how to get one together.²

After being turned down for a competitive grant to fund the project, the garden¹s future was in jeopardy. Unwilling to abandon the plans, Human Resources secured alternate funds and the garden became a reality.

Coordination of the project was simple, as plans from the original grant application were carried over and adopted. Eager staff members from A Full Life Agency in Libby stepped in right away, logging in countless hours in the dirt preparing the garden.

³We truly wouldn¹t have a garden if it wasn¹t for the staff at A Full Life Agency and the community,² McCabe said.

Lisa Hubler of A Full Life Agency has accepted the position of community garden coordinator, selflessly donating her time to the effort.

³We¹re trying to do the work to keep it going,² Hubler said.

³We¹ve recruited our family and friends and neighbors,² said Christine Jones-Redifer of A Full Life. ³It¹s been a lot of fun.²

With enough volunteers on board to get the garden started, the only thing missing was a site for the community project. McCabe said the agency was discerning as they searched for land, needing to find rich, vermiculite-free soil.

³We found the site at the last minute,² McCabe said. ³Dan Brossman and Jeff Hoff, the owners, have been so gracious. We wanted safe and healthy land.²

Vegetables and fruit growing in the 60- by 90-foot garden will be available for volunteers and community people in

need of fresh, healthy sustenance.

³The goal as it was written in the grant is that whoever was working in the garden could take home what they and their family could eat that day,² McCabe said.

The remainder of the harvest will be donated to the food pantry and the VFW for its bulk distribution effort.

Preparing the garden for the current growing season was admittedly a rushed affair, McCabe said. Next year, she said the garden would be expanded and planting efforts would be carried out much earlier.

Once the garden prospers, plans are in place to make a section of the land handicapped accessible. Reinforcing the garden¹s community component, children from Lov Œn Care Daycare planted a kid¹s corner, which will be maintained periodically by the young gardeners.

³We want a place where care center residents are able to visit if they want to,² Jones-Redifer said. ³This is a community effort. We want everyone to feel welcome here.²

One of the initial goals for the project was to create a tangible example of good nutrition to be used as an educational tool.

³People who visit the garden are able to find out about nutrition and the importance of eating vegetables,² McCabe said.

For further education, a volunteer-taught class will be given in Libby on food storage and preparation, and the importance of nutrition.

³My son loves vegetables and I have to call my mother to have her tell me how to cook most of them,² McCabe said. ³There may be others in the community who could use information on preparation and a variety of ways to cook vegetables.²

Community garden volunteers have been feverishly recruiting groups and individuals willing to pledge their time for the cause. Unfortunately, the core group of volunteers has already been spread thin. Additional volunteers are needed.

³As little as one hour a month would be appreciated down there,² said Jones-Redifer. ³It would make a big difference.²

An opening day ceremony for the garden, located at 565 City Service Road, will be held on Friday, July 23, at 3 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend the event.

For further information on volunteering at the community garden, contact Lisa at A Full Life Agency at 293-9651 or Karla at Northwest Montana Human Resources, 293-2712.