Garden is all about community

Kathy Joroensen displays one of the carrots grown in her plot at the Partnership Garden in Apple Valley during a public open house Aug. 10. (Photo by Andrew Miller)

Kathy Joroensen displays one of the carrots grown in her plot at the Partnership Garden in Apple Valley during a public open house Aug. 10. (Photo by Andrew Miller)

There are good things growing at the Partnership Garden in Apple Valley, and it’s about more than just food.

Created in 2010 and located on the School of Environmental Studies campus, the garden is as much about building community as it is about growing vegetables, according to garden founder Pat Schoenecker.

“Our goal is to serve as an inspiration and to educate,” Schoenecker said. “The idea all along has been to inspire people that gardening is interesting.”

The all-organic garden saw its first growing season in 2011. Circular in shape, it features 17 individual “keyhole” plots surrounded by taller field crops, which are tended to by everyone involved.

There’s a beehive on the periphery of the garden, maintained by Pinewood Elementary Principal Cris Town, which helps with pollination. And high school students from the School of Environmental Studies have lent a hand as well – the trellis, cement bird bath and rainwater barrel were all installed by students at the school working on their senior service projects.

After getting the garden up and running, the core group hosted a tour for School District 196 principals with the idea of inspiring them to start gardens at their schools, and Highland Elementary has since started its own garden. The gardeners have also hosted a hands-on session with youngsters from a day camp for English language learners.

Brent Iliof takes a soil sample in his garden plot at the Partnership Garden in Apple Valley. “It’s fun because you can experiment,” he said. “This place definitely beats going to the grocery store.” (Photo by Andrew Miller)

Brent Iliof takes a soil sample in his garden plot at the Partnership Garden in Apple Valley. “It’s fun because you can experiment,” he said. “This place definitely beats going to the grocery store.” (Photo by Andrew Miller)

On Aug. 10, a public open house offered gardeners a chance to showcase what they’ve got growing. Kale chips and savory quinoa salad – made with kale and quinoa grown in the garden – were on offer for guests to sample.

Brent Iliof, who’s maintained a plot in the garden since its inception, took a soil sample and tended to the variety of peppers in his keyhole plot during the open house.

“I’ve got six different types of peppers – a pepper in every color, basically,” he said. “It’s fun because you can experiment. This place definitely beats going to the grocery store.”

The group, which donates part of its harvest to local food shelves, is always seeking new gardeners and volunteers.

Partnership Garden participants meet the second Thursday of each month, 7-8:30 p.m., at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 12650 Johnny Cake Ridge Road.

More about the group is at www.partnershipgarden.org.

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