During a series of Zoom conference calls with other legislative committee members, an idea came up while they discussed ways to help individuals in smaller and rural communities struggling economically due to underemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea: grow a community garden.
“We started talking about trying to reaching out to the communities to see if one might be interested in partnering with us to try to pool resources to apply for grant funding to start a community garden,” said Angela Kenyon Davis, a former Creston native.
Kenyon, who said she is very proud of her upbringing in Creston, thought her former hometown would be the perfect spot and reached out to Mayor Gabe Carroll to gauge his interest.
“He informed me that the city council already discussed trying to do something like that and was interested in talking more, so I started reaching out to others in the community just to see what interest there might be,” Davis said.
Davis, a Des Moines area attorney and lobbyist, said one of her clients, the Iowa Environmental Council is working on a Wellmark grant to match local funds for the project. To date, $1,000 has been pledged or donated already with other businesses such as Akin Building Supply, Tractor Supply, Bomgaars, Innovative Industries and Weisshaar Farms providing in-kind donations in the form of supplies.
“I found so much warmth and receptivity from everyone I talked to. It was really heart-warming,” said Davis.
Alicia Vasto of the IEC is handling the accounting for the group, so that she can apply for other federal and state grants to supplement local dollars that have been pledged.
“The local businesses have been really great with donations ... we’re hoping in the future that can grow and expand with more donations,” said Jen Kenyon.
Kenyon said she is excited about the response to the garden, which has been planted at the corner of West Howard and North Oak streets, behind the First United Methodist Church.
“Each week we will have a different family or organization n charge of water and weeding. That family or organization will get about a quarter of the produce if they want it and the remaining 3/4 will be given to the Creston food pantry for Sunday distribution,” said Kenyon.
The garden currently features two raised beds with tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, cabbage and egg plant. A lower bed was planted with pumpkin and yellow squash. A three-tiered herb garden holds mint, basil, thyme and rosemary.
Staff and friends of Iowa State Savings Bank has already signed up to take on a week tending the garden. Kenyon and Davis encourage more families and organizations to follow suit.
“Individuals can volunteer with a group, or form their own group,” Kenyon said.
Kenyon said the garden will help supplement produce for the nearly 100 families who seek the assistance of the Creston Area Food Pantry.
“We are very excited about it. It’s been wonderful to have a way to reach out to the Boy Scouts, 4-H groups, the Appalachia Service Project ... the more groups to become involved, I think, the more excited we all become,” said Davis.
To become involved with the Creston Community Garden, visit their Facebook page at https://tinyurl.com/crestongarden.