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The Scarlet & Black

Giving garden coming to Ahrens Park

The Ahrens Park location is only the latest of several giving gardens in Grinnell. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.
The Ahrens Park location is only the latest of several giving gardens in Grinnell. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.

Imagine Grinnell, an organization focused on community development through local food, recreational programs and childcare, is planting its newest “Giving Garden” at Ahrens Park this spring. 

Giving Gardens are dispersed throughout Grinnell with a goal of getting healthy food to those who need it. Imagine Grinnell’s website notes that much of the food produced in these gardens goes to MICA, Grinnell’s local food pantry. The newest garden, located at Ahrens Park, will be the biggest giving garden yet, and its location means it should get heavy traffic in the summer months. 

Rich Dana, executive director of Imagine Grinnell, hopes that the Ahrens Park location will help the giving gardens reach more people. “Ahrens Park has always been a place for people to walk, play and get outdoors,” he wrote in an email to The S&B. 

Dana also emphasized the fact that the garden at Ahrens Park and all other Giving Gardens are open to anyone. “Everyone is welcome to get involved,” he wrote. “There are no restrictions on who can participate, or who can pick from the Giving Gardens. Everything operates on the ‘honor’ system.” Not only is everyone welcome to involve themselves in producing food in the gardens, but everyone is also welcome to harvest the fruits of those efforts.

Dana mentioned that even though the gardens help feed families who need better access to healthy foods, he encourages anyone who walks by the giving gardens to try something new. “The food is free to all. We only ask that you respect the hard work that goes into the garden, pick carefully, and don’t take more than you need,” Dana wrote. “If you happen see a variety of tomato you have never tried, take a few! If you are out for a walk around the park and want to enjoy a handful of sweet peas or berries, help yourself!”

The garden is funded by an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach grant, part of a program which partners with communities throughout Iowa with a mission of developing rural communities. Dana wrote that this funding will make the Ahrens Park location “bigger and in a much more public location” than other gardens.

Dana also stressed the impact the giving gardens program can have on a community like Grinnell. “Grinnell is fortunate in that it has a strong economy compared to many small towns, and we have a very engaged population,” he wrote. “Despite these facts, we also have a lot of people who are struggling, financially and personally. The gardens are places where everyone can get together and feel that they are part of the community.”

While a few Giving Gardens cannot feed everyone in Grinnell, Dana noted that they can educate the community about different food options and shed light on the fact that there are families who rely on assistance from the community for healthy food. Ultimately, the garden is a place to build community.

“We rely on mutual respect and the basic goodness of people, and we are rarely disappointed!” Dana wrote.

Grinnell’s newest Giving Garden will likely begin operation later this spring.

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