- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) - Nothing beats fresh vegetables from the garden.

For the residents of Parkside and Oak Park Terrace mobile home parks east of Marion Road Southeast, a bumper crop of veggies is just a short summer away. Residents both young and old have worked to plant a community garden filled with produce on the vine of all kinds.

“I’ve been pondering the idea of a community garden for three years,” said Kristine Caballero, assistant property manager for the mobile home parks. When she was approached by long-time gardener Dale Schulz, she decided this year the time was right, the Post-Bulletin (https://bit.ly/20RAlXN ) reported.

“The main reason was, a lot of this stuff like home (economics) and cooking have been taken out of the schools,” Caballero said. “We have a lot of single-parent families in our community. If we can teach them how to grow their own vegetables and help out with the groceries, the end result is they have good, nutritious food to eat this summer and through the fall.”

The garden is a project mainly for children and young adults, though some parents help out and supervise, Caballero said. It started with the volunteers planting seeds in the sunlit room above the mobile home park’s offices early in the spring. Last month, those seedlings were replanted outside in a dozen communal plots on an empty strip of land between Marion Road and Park Lane.

About 20 youths and young adults, and 8 to 10 parents from the community have volunteered for the community garden. About twice a week, they met to tend to the seedlings. Now that the plants are in the ground, they’ll work together tending the garden outdoors.

Schulz, who comes from a long line of farmers and gardeners, said the goal is to teach sustainable gardening - no fertilizer, no chemicals, plenty of compost - to the youth who live there. Using items like unsprayed grass clippings to hold in the moisture and no-till techniques to reduce weeds, the volunteers are learning the best methods for taking care of their plants.

Vegetables planted include asparagus, zucchini, peppers, lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas and melons.

“It’ll cut down on their food bill,” Schulz said. “And because they are eating organic, it’ll cut down on their doctor bills.”

They’ll plant new crops every three or four weeks to lengthen the harvest.

This year, the food will be shared not only among those who helped with the project, but throughout the mobile home community. In the future, Schulz said, he hopes they can grow enough to sell at farmers markets.

“The kids can then learn math and business skills like salesmanship,” he said.

Caballero said the mobile home park has several lots that cannot be used due to their size and zoning ordinances.

“Our long-term goal is to put greenhouses on those vacant lots so we can harvest into the winter,” she said. “We could provide produce for our community all year around. Fresh, good healthy produce.”

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Information from: Post-Bulletin, https://www.postbulletin.com

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