In addition to sprouting carrots, garlic and tomato plants, community garden boxes on the 2300 block of Oakes Avenue contain seeds of hope.
Greg Williams retired from a career in auto sales last year. A first-year gardener, he plans to grow family memories with his grandchildren, 5-year-old Delilah and 4-year-old Declan, as they tend his box together.
“I’m retired now. I needed something to do,” Williams said. “My grandkids are at that age — you know, they’re inquisitive and they want to know what’s going on, and there’s nothing better than getting fresh vegetables out of your garden.”
Williams said he’ll plant cucumbers, different colored peppers, radishes and more, whatever the youngsters want.
Vicki Windsor, another novice gardener, said she didn’t know what would be growing in her plot this summer.
“I just wanted to play in the dirt,” Windsor said. “I haven’t had a chance to play in the dirt because where I live in an apartment you can’t do it.”
Both live close to the community garden — Windsor is two blocks away; Williams lives in the Golden Apartments building next to the gardens.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on it since last year when it started,” he said. “I think it’s impressive and there’s room for more.”
Despite the need for masks and social distancing, the site created by the Superior Community Gardens Association is bringing the community together.
“I live right next door,” said board member Larry Guite. “I see a lot of people go by.”
They walk through with and without dogs, examining the space and asking questions. Renters, most of whom live within walking distance, stop by to water, dig and plant their plots. There’s a sense of ownership, said Jane Anklam, UW-Extension Agricultural and Horticulture educator.
The association was launched three years ago to build gardens, connect people with healthy food and foster a sense of community throughout Superior.
“I think there has always been interest in community gardens,” said Ruth Ludwig, a founding member and Master Gardener.
They realized the true need this spring. Initially, only 10 beds were available. More than double that number of people applied for one of the 8-by-4 foot boxes. Not wanting to turn anyone away, Ludwig and her husband John, another Master Gardener, chipped in $1,100 to build 10 more.
“I truly believe in the community garden concept,” she said, and the overwhelming interest was wonderful to see.
Guite calls the garden on Oakes Avenue the group’s “test balloon.”
A retired registered nurse who grew up on a farm just outside of Duluth on Lavaque Road, Guite has been watching the garden grow since he moved to Golden Apartments in June 2019. He’s become the on-site caretaker, sitting outside with his dog, Max, to unofficially welcome folks and answer questions.
“It gives me something to do,” he said. “It gets me outside and doing things.”
Eventually, the group plans to grow gardens in other areas of the city.
“Community gardens are good for health, nutrition, sense of well being, engagement with neighbors and learning how to grow food,” Anklam said. “From an economic perspective, community gardens prove to be an amenity that people expect when locating in a community, like a lovely park system, farmers markets, bike trails and cultural diversity.”
Work is still ongoing at the gardens, and volunteers are invited to lend a hand. Gates, a grape arbor and a platform for a water tank are all in the plans. Boxes need to be filled with dirt. Financial donations are also being sought to allow the garden to expand even further. There’s room for 10 more beds.
Ludwig gave a shout out to everyone who’s partnered with the nonprofit association to make its first community garden a reality, from city officials to volunteers.
“It makes me smile every time I go to the garden and see the progress and see the people working there and especially the plants growing this year,” Ludwig said.
Douglas County is home to five community gardens, Anklam said. The other four are located at Bayside Baptist Church, Faith United Methodist Church, Solid Rock Mission and in Parkland.
This story originally contained an incorrect measurement of the garden plot size. It was updated at 8:15 a.m. June 2 with the proper measurement. The Telegram regrets the error.