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Community seeks to buy land to keep Maplewood garden for immigrants going

Community efforts to save Rice Street Gardens
Community efforts to save Rice Street Gardens 02:05

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. -- A community garden in Maplewood is trying to buy the land that they currently lease, to ensure they don't lose it. Under drifts of snow Rice Street Gardens lays dormant.

"We've been looking for this kind of garden for a long time," said Htee Doh, an immigrant from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. "I really like it."

Waiting to come alive with the spring, the garden serves 260 families and over 1,000 people.

"I came from Africa from a background of farming," said Abraham Watson. "So it is just something in me that everywhere I go I must plant something."

On any given summer day, immigrants from several different countries are gardening side by side.

"I usually crack a joke and call it the United Nations Garden, because we got people from every continent," Watson said.

"I'm so happy every time I come to the garden. We also bring a lot of food and meet a lot of friends," said Po Pway, through a translator.

The garden's future is uncertain. St. Paul Regional Water Services owns the land but could sell it. Rice Street Gardens is trying to buy it. The founder has seen the impact firsthand.

"It was like the families' health and mental wellbeing was all in balance finally," said Ronald Peterson, the co-founder of the organization. "Everybody was contributing. And so that's why I feel so strongly why we've got to keep this garden going."

St. Paul Regional Water Services tells WCCO they are not in hurry to sell this land and that for their purposes they won't have use for this land for the next several years.

"We're trying to raise $1 million, which is insane because we need a lot of small contributions and a lot of big ones," said Peterson.

"We feel very connected to people, culture to culture," said Doh.

It's a big goal to keep a big project growing. Rice Street Gardens is meeting with the Board of Water Commissioners in mid-February to discuss plan to buy the land. Click here for more information on their fundraising efforts.

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