Archived Story

LRHC community garden to benefit area residents

Published 11:10am Thursday, March 28, 2013

Access to fruits and veggies could soon get a little easier for some local families as the community garden project, Lake Region Takes Root, takes shape.

The community garden is a Lake Region Healthcare initiative developed to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in hopes of improving the health of LRHC employees and the residents they serve. LRHC representatives presented information regarding the project to the City Finance, Personnel and Development Committee Wednesday.

“We see this as a partnership that the community can really embrace,” said Brandi Sillerud, senior VP of clinic operations for LRHC.

They’ve already received some great feedback from the community about Lake Region Takes Root, Sillerud said.

Foods grown in the garden will help serve Women Infants and Children clients of Otter Tail County. Extra food will be donated to other organizations like the Fergus Falls Community Food Shelf.

However, this project is much more than a community garden, said Jason Bergstrand, social worker and wellness program coordinator. It’s “a direct investment in our community,” he said. The garden will offer educational opportunities that will inspire growing and provide more chances to eat nutritious foods, which can lead to healthier eating and then to improved overall health, Bergstrand said.

“We want to be able to use this as an outdoor facility of education,” Bergstrand said, “growing foods collectively together as a community.”

Lake Region Takes Root started after a need was identified through the 2012 Community Health Assessment by LRHC and Otter Tail County Public Health which showed families with children under 21 were concerned about being able to get fresh fruits and veggies, and getting them at affordable prices.

The project’s meaning goes beyond Fergus Falls. Health care in this country needs to move toward preventative care, Sillerud said.

“We see this as a model going forward,” Sillerud said.

It’s planned for the first phase of planting to begin May 11 for the vegetable garden, and the orchard is scheduled to be planted this spring as well. It will be about three years for the entire project to be phased in, depending on resources and available funding.

The 1.5-acre parcel of land for the garden (which was donated to Lake Region Healthcare) located at 260 Kennedy Park Circle, just south of the Lake Region Healthcare Walk-In Clinic and west of Home Depot. A draft of the garden plans include an orchard, raised garden beds, tillable land and a pergola for an education center.

Though the project already has a bunch of area sponsors, Bergstrand and Sillerud looked to the finance committee Wednesday for a little help with the garden. They want to be able to compost at the site, which they are currently not allowed to do according to the city ordinance.

The compost ordinance is already on the list for staff to update and then get city council approval, said Anne Martens, director of public works.

They are not seeking money from the city, though Sillerud did ask for some fees to be waived, like the assessment fee for water hookup, for example.

The committee passed a motion to direct city staff to work on the project.

“We should support as much as we can,” committee member Anthony Hicks said.

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