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Mound Church Helps Low-Income Families Grow Food

MOUND, Minn. (WCCO) -- A newspaper advertisment called Tami Clark Pehrson to Mound's Bethel United Methodist church, but she unexpectedly found nourishment outside, among the rows of lettuce, onions and asparagus.

"I did pray for a garden. I wanted a garden to do something," Clark Pehrson said.

She turned to the church's community garden when life was uprooted. Clark Pehrson was laid off like many of her Mound neighbors.

"Both parents are laid off now, and if you get the kids involved, they are here in the dirt, playing, learning what our history was all about," said Clark Pehrson.

Last year, church leaders cultivated a place where low income families and seniors could grow their own food. The church also donates food to those in need.

"This is called GROW Gardens and it's an acronym for Giving Roots of Westonka," said Jessie Pinney, one of the founders of the GROW community garden. "The biggest problem in Mound is there if you looked an at area photo, there is no open area, everyone has trees in their yard, it's a very shaded environment."

The GROW community garden is possible, thanks to grant from the community gardening organization Gardening Matters.

Outreach coordinator Margaret Shields says Mound is one of eight Twin Cities communities without access to local food, during a time of economic crisis.

She says Twin Cities is home to more than 300 community gardens, but several communities need more fresh produce: Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Crystal, Hopkins, Mound, New Hope, Osseo, and Robbinsdale.

"What's really important is right now gardens aren't existing in those types of places," said Shields, pointing to an even greater stress with the economic crisis. "High gas prices and transportation costs for food, to people just wanted to feel more connected to the communities where they are from and where their food comes from. It's something we really lost along the way."

"To teach the kids to start eating vegetables, I think we've gotten away from that by spending our money at fast food places," Clark Pehrson agreed.

In the second season, Clark Pehrson says she got much more than she asked for. In a small plot, she found purpose.

"It brings us back together again," she said.

Gardening Matters would like more communities to follow GROW Gardens example. They are offering a community garden mini-grant program for the 2012 season in the eight food insecure communities.

Five mini-grants for up to $1,500 will be awarded to gardens started in those areas, as part of Hennepin County Healthy Eating Minnesota. Applications are due by April 22.

Interested applicants can also attend an information session on April 4 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Brookdale Library.

Learn more by visiting the Gardening Matters website.

Westonka residents can also apply for plots at the downtown GROW gardens. Twenty percent of the produce is donated to the Westonka Food Shelf.

Registration is required by April 18, 2011. Call 952.472.9801 or email at

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