by Joni Astrup
It’s called “A Harvest To Remember,” and it will be back again in 2011.
The program was launched in 2010 by the historic Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River. It resulted in two community gardens planted by seniors and area youth. The produce was donated to the CAER food shelf in Elk River.
“We’re going into Phase II of that and expanding it a little bit,” said Mary Lou Gillette, site supervisor at the Kelley Farm.
A program on A Harvest To Remember will also be part of the Seed Saver’s Exchange on Sunday, March 13 at the Kelley Farm (see story below).
Both seniors and youth were involved in making last year’s A Harvest To Remember a success. The youth included a community service group from Spectrum High School in Elk River and a 4-H group.
Spectrum students started the seedlings in their classrooms, and participated in spring planting days.
During the summer, 4-H students tended the garden and helped with the final harvest.
Hayley Balmanno, 12, and her brother, Nick Balmanno, 10, of Elk River were involved as part of the Navigators 4-H club.
They tended and cared for a garden, helping to plant seeds and collect the harvest. They also talked to the senior citizens, including finding out what kind of gardening they did when they were younger.
Asked what he learned, Nick said: “I learned that seniors have really interesting stories to tell about how they gardened when they were kids. I also learned that working with older people can be very fun.”
Hayley liked when they got to water the plants and also thought the senior citizens’ stories were interesting.
Asked what she learned, she said: “I learned about gardening and the generations of gardeners before us.”
The gardeners grew a variety of things including squash, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, beets and cucumbers, all of which ended up at CAER.
Jenny Gray, executive director of the CAER food shelf, said people love to get fresh produce. They also appreciate that it’s coming from their community.
“It’s their neighbors growing this produce and bringing it in to share it,” Gray said. “Not only are they getting this fresh produce, but it also kind of serves as a reminder of a community that cares.”
Last year’s A Harvest to Remember garden sites were at Guardian Angels by the Lake and the community garden plots near the Elk River YMCA.
This year there will be a garden again at Guardian Angels by the Lake and a new A Harvest to Remember garden plot at the Kelley Farm.
Spectrum students and 4-H members will be participating, as will seniors who live at Guardian Angels by the Lake. Gillette said they are still looking for active, mobile senior gardeners to participate at the Kelley Farm site. Call Gillette at 763-441-6896 for more information.
A combination of heirloom and regular seeds will be planted. Heirlooms are any open pollinated plant variety 50 years old or older.
The Seed Saver’s Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, and the Kelley Farm have both donated heirloom seeds for the project.
The Sunbeam Grange has also donated seeds.
Gillette said having youth and seniors work together is a way to transfer a lot of good gardening information from one generation to another.
“But more importantly, those relationships between our senior residents and the young people will be strengthened,” she said.
To see a video about the Elk River gardening project, go to http://legacy.mnhs.org/sharing-community-stories/projects/elk-river-garden-project.
Free Seed Saver’s Exchange will be March 13
The 29th Annual Seed Saver’s Exchange begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13 at the historic Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River. The event is free and open to novice gardeners as well as those with more experience.
The program will include a gardening presentation about A Harvest to Remember.
Participants need not bring seeds in order to take seed home. Seed art will be available for children to make and take with them. For details, call the Kelley Farm at 763-441-6896.