Community Garden provides produce and exercise for the community

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

Three years ago, CCM Health Advanced Practice Clinician, Jessica Stettner heard of the plans from the clinic's CEO to open a Wellness Center in Montevideo, and had the idea to add to the idea of improving the overall health of the community with a Community Garden. “It seemed to align,” she says. “The CEO was really supportive of starting a garden and we came across SHIP funding that made it a low risk to start.” The SHIP, or Statewide Health Improvement Project, grant has provided funds each year since as the Community Garden continues to grow.

Located behind the ambulance garage on Ashmore Avenue, the Community Garden has nearly 400 feet of perennial fruit bushes that produce each year, a twelve tree orchard that should be producing in the near future, and sections of a vegetable garden, as well as two new raised herb beds. Each year, a planting party is held for volunteers to help install the vegetable gardens and whatever perennial additions are being made that year. “This year we added an asparagus patch with 100 asparagus,” says Stettner. Additionally, the planting party volunteers planted a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, cauliflower, green beans, peas, cabbage, and melons including cantaloupe and watermelon. “We added two raised herb beds - one of them with savory herbs that you could put on your chicken or potatoes and one of them with sweeter herbs you could infuse in your water like chamomile, lavender, lemon balm,” says Stettner. There is also a rhubarb patch that returns each season. 

Whatever cost isn’t covered by the SHIP grant is picked up by the hospital and the work to maintain the garden each season is done by volunteers. Stettner does a lot of that work herself, happy to walk the half-block from the hospital to the garden between patients to pull some weeds, water and make sure the plants are being maintained. “All of the produce out there is free for the community to harvest,” says Stettner. “The idea is that people get out there, get active, make a habit of walking through the garden to check it and grab a handful of raspberries on the way and then come out there and check it again the next day. It helps people to get that connection with their food and nature while getting outside and being active.” 

To help provide some guidance to what’s ready to be picked as it ripens, posts are made on the CCM Health Facebook page and Stettner also says they plan to obtain laminated signs that will point to the produce that is ready to be picked. “That will help so that people don’t have to go searching - they can just look for the red sign with the arrow and go look for a snack,” Stettner says. The next things to be ready for picking, Stettner says, are the honeyberries and saskatoon berries in June. Stettner also says there are plans to start posting a “weeding Wednesday” call for volunteers, but that they also welcome anyone who walks through pulling weeds on their exploration of the garden. The Community Garden also features a bench to enjoy a relaxing moment in the garden and a grape vine-covered arbor. 

To keep up with the happenings in the Community Garden, find updates on the CCM Health Facebook page.