Citizen Wausau

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Greening Up Wausau in a Real Way

by on August 5th, 2009

Monday morning I sat down with two dynamic women in a UW-Extension conference room, and magic happened. What was supposed to be a massive conglomeration of community organizations was a bust, but some great ideas still came to the surface.

Our goal? To discuss the future of Wausau community gardens. We love community gardens for many reasons. Extra produce can be given to local food pantries. Any additional vegetable consumption is awesome for those who partake. Having more green spaces in the city is always a good thing. Etc. The list goes on.

The outcome. The brainstorm.

1. They have many school groups that are chomping at the bit to build and plant community gardens at the end of the school year, but they have very little commitment to maintain those gardens during the growing season.  Perhaps we could start an email notification list to interested gardeners where we could give them weekly updates on what gardens need what work. If 100 local green thumbs were to donate 30 minutes of their time every week during the summer, we could easily maintain several community gardens.

2. We should band together, all of the various local organizations that have spontaneously begun community gardens, when we approach the city to request the use of vacant lots for gardens. More people, more organization, a better lobbying body.

3. Vacant lots often don’t have water for irrigation. We could get donated rain barrels and cisterns and fill them with water and transport them to the sites for future irrigation use.

4. Raised bed plots could easily be rented to residents. Many nearby cities have started similar programs and have reached full occupancy within days.

5. Raised bed plots in these community gardens could be “adopted” by local church groups or other organizations for the benefit of food pantries. If they were only committing themselves to a 4×6 plot to tend for the summer, perhaps there would be more interest and follow-through.

And my favorite idea of all?

6. Have the schools build and plant waist-high raised beds on the properties of senior living centers. I know many senior citizens who are unable to garden anymore because of physical limitations but yearn for the feel of soil under their fingernails. The gardens would be tended throughout the summer by the residents under the periodic supervision of people like me.

I think it’s a magical occurence when so many people in the community (even though they couldn’t come to the meeting) have the same great idea. Community gardens. Teaching people how to garden, how to think more about what they eat. Donating fresh produce to the local food pantries (I have visions of baskets of fresh tomatoes and potatoes sitting next to highly processed foods like mac-and-cheese and spam) or even eating a serving of sweet corn instead of a pile of potato chips. So many groups in town had the same idea and started these gardens on their own. Together we can consolidate our supplies and talents next summer to keep the miracle going.

In other news, how incredibly cool is it that Lisa Coady planted vegetables in the raised beds outside of the First American Center this summer? What a simple, wonderful idea! What other businesses could replace their flower beds and bushes with useful and still lovely tomato and pea trellises, carrots and potato plants?

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