For more than 10 years, the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area has partnered with the University of Minnesota Extension to develop a garden program. The Club garden teaches Club members lifelong gardening skills by caring for the garden. Club members also learn about good nutrition when they harvest and prepare fresh produce from the garden.
In 2017 the garden grew by 400 square feet and now includes 15 additional raised beds. With all these expansions we’ve increased our growing space to almost double of previous years, which results in a higher yield harvested from our Club garden.
The garden not only produces over 1,000 pounds of produce per season, it also teaches:
- Good nutrition and healthy lifestyles
- Club kids get a chance to get their hands dirty and be active in the garden. They also learn about good nutrition from vitamins and minerals to phytonutrients that keep us healthy.
- How to feed the earth by composting so the soil is ready for another season of production. Our kids love the magic of feeding the compost bin and watching it turn into rich, nourishing soil to feed the garden.
- Our gardeners also get time in the kitchen learning how to prepare their harvest. Kale chips are a favorite.
- Every fall, Club kids host a Harvest Dinner and invite friends and family to share the bounty of their harvest. The Club partners with professional chefs who work with Club members to prepare a delicious and nutritious meal.
- Fun fact: Our Club kids report eating 11 percent more veggies than their peers in a national survey.
- Leadership skills
- Through partnerships with our local community, our Club members learn how to plan, plant and harvest the produce in the garden.
- The garden provides an opportunity for the older members of the Club to teach the younger members how to garden.
- Entrepreneurial skills
- Club members host on-site farmer markets where they sell healthy produce to Club families at below-market value to make produce more accessible.
- Club youth gain valuable skills when they sell and deliver harvested produce to local restaurants to use in their menu items.
- Cultural traditions
- Members broaden their knowledge of culture and language as they label vegetable beds in four different languages: English, Ojibwa, Spanish and French.
- Members learn about traditional plantings in Native American culture in the ‘Three Sisters’ garden, which features plants that are known to thrive when planted together. Our ‘Three Sisters’ raised bed includes squash, green beans and corn. While growing together green beans grow up the corn stalks and are surrounded by squash. These vegetables are staple foods in Native American culture.
Through community partnerships, our garden continues to grow and expand. To learn more about our garden, and to schedule a tour, contact us here.
If you are interested donating to our garden, and other programs like this, donate here.
- Deb Dilly
- University of Minnesota Extension
- Home Depot
- T&K Outdoors
- Elk’s Lodge 1052/National Elk’s Foundation