NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – As Sand Creek Community Gardens on the Bethel College campus continues to develop and evolve, a recently announced grant award of $4,506 will help in that process.
SCCG received the funds through the Kansas Community Gardens Project, a joint initiative of the Kansas Health Foundation and Kansas State University Research and Extension. SCCG is one of only 24 community garden efforts in the state to receive funding in the project’s inaugural year.
Grant recipients were selected through a competitive application process that drew interest from organizations and gardens across the state. The Kansas Community Gardens Project is a three-year initiative. The 2012 recipients are the first of what will eventually be more than 60 gardens in the program.
SCCG is now in its third year, located at the corner of 24th Street and Goerz Avenue in North Newton, just south of the Warkentin Court residence hall on campus. There are 32 garden plots and about 60 gardeners (individuals; families, including children; and students).
With money from memorial funds administered by Bethel College and Bethel College Mennonite Church, a grant from the City of North Newton and individual donations, and through mostly volunteer labor, the gardens area includes a watering system; perennial vegetable, herb and flower beds; a composting and mulch storage structure; and a garden equipment shed with a sheltered meeting area.
By the time the 2013 growing season begins, the gardens – including the shed, which was built so that it could be moved – will have been relocated just north of Memorial Grove at the trailhead of Sand Creek Trail, with vehicle access from K-15 onto 29th Street.
The new garden area is in what has been fertile farm land, leased to a local farmer and sown in alfalfa over the last number of years.
Although the change was originally sparked by long-range plans for the Bethel campus, SCCG coordinator Duane Friesen, a retired Bethel professor and North Newton resident, says “the move will give us an opportunity to improve the gardens based on what we learned at the [first] site.”
This mostly has to do with space. The new location will provide room for more individual garden plots; larger and better systems for composting and for mulch collection and storage; and expansion of the perennial beds.
There will need to be some adjustment from the original location. Being close to woods will most likely mean there will be more wildlife interested in checking out the gardens.
About half the grant will go to fund buying and installing an electric fence as well as to erecting signage to direct gardeners from K-15 to the new location, creating a parking area with limestone rock or landscape timbers and installing a new water system.
Community gardeners will benefit from the grant already in this growing season, Friesen says, since the other half of the grant will go to purchase additional gardening tools and equipment.