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Cottage Grove community garden a role model for other communities and the country

A new community garden, led by multiple gardeners from the Washington County migrant community, the City of Cottage Grove and multiple city organizers, brings residents together to grow culturally relevant food from their upbringing. The garden is open to all, and increasing access to healthy food and green spaces while growing produce to help reduce existing food scarcity.

 

“As a resident of Cottage Grove in Washington County, I’m so proud of this initiative, which is a role model for other communities and the rest of the country,” said Sheletta Brundidge, WCCO radio host and Cottage Grove, Minn. resident. “People from other countries can plant foods they grew up eating and loving in this garden and feel a sense of home, and educate those of us who may have never been to their home country.”

 

The 40-plot Meadow Grass Community Garden opened May 30, and the project was funded through the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, a grant administered by Washington County Public Health and Environment. 

 

Maggie Noubissie, a Cottage Grove resident of 21 years originally from Cameroon, and her daughter are on the planning committee that built the vision for Meadow Grass Community Garden. “In addition to growing the food, we can bring immigrant communities together,” said Noubissie. “The garden is not specifically for African migrant communities – it’s open to everyone. We have gardeners of African descent, we have Asian and South American gardeners, it’s global,” she said.

 

Each community garden plot is home to different fruits and vegetables. Gardeners from Cottage Grove and neighboring cities are gardening there. Noubissie and her daughter are growing foods she grew up with in Cameroon, including greens like betta leaf, huckleberry or Njama Njama, a very important leafy vegetable crop in Cameroon, water leaf, which is like a spinach, and melon plant.

 

“That’s the beauty of the community garden – you get to grow the foods you grew up eating, just like other people from other cultures,” said Noubissie. “Even though we are not home, it brings back the homeland to us. And I think it's a very healthy way for us as immigrants living here to reconnect with the homeland, but also to introduce other people to our foods.”

 

As for the future of the garden and making sure it’s here for our kids when they get older, Noubissie says “As long as there will be gardeners, this garden will exist.” She feels this is just the beginning, and there’s an opportunity for this garden model to happen in other cities too.

 

“Folks want to be able to grow their own plants and vegetables and things that they grew up eating and loving,” said Brundidge. “Projects like this foster mental and physical well-being and bridge gaps between communities and local governments,” she added.

 

For the project, the City of Cottage Grove secured land and plot registration, tilling and irrigation services, an onsite portable restroom, and parking access. UMN Extension supplied a shed and tools, soil testing, and will offer ongoing guidance for community gardeners. Its Master Gardeners also constructed a fence in partnership with community volunteers. Additionally, Ramsey/Washington County Recycling & Energy Center provided compost, and a volunteer group is established to manage day-to-day operations to ensure the project remains sustainable.

 

“This project has been about connection — to cultural foods, memories of residents’ home countries, and the opportunity to spend time with our neighbors,” said Eric Ini, community organizer and founder of Influencer Hotspot, a supporter of the project. “Meadow Grass Community Garden is an example of how we can start to meet the real needs of our communities when we bridge the gap between minority groups and government institutions.”

 

The Meadow Grass Community Garden is located at 6950 Meadow Grass Avenue in Cottage Grove, and open now through mid-October. “Even if you don't live in Cottage Grove, it is a vibrant space and just a sight to see how people from diverse backgrounds are coming together to learn, to share, to connect, to communicate, to love on one another through planting, through growing, through connecting,” says Brundidge. 

 

For more information, visit cottagegrovemn.gov/CommunityGardens

 

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