Open house to showcase Cambridge Community Garden

The Cambridge Community Garden is open to the public. An open house celebrating its five-year anniversary from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 10 will feature refreshments and gardening demonstrations.  Photo by Shawna Carpentier
The Cambridge Community Garden is open to the public. An open house celebrating its five-year anniversary from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 10 will feature refreshments and gardening demonstrations.  Photo by Shawna Carpentier

Since 2009, the Cambridge Community Garden has been providing individuals from all walks of life with a place to plant seeds and grow friendships while promoting a sense of community.

Now after five years of operation the Cambridge Community Garden Board of Gardeners and Isanti County Master Gardeners are hosting a celebration for the community on Saturday, Aug. 10. The event is open to the public and guests will be able to enjoy snacks and refreshments from 1-3 p.m.

The celebration will feature composting demonstrations, education on gardening techniques, tips on how to grill vegetables and tours of the garden, which is located at 18th Avenue Southwest and East Rum River Drive South.

The city of Cambridge owns the land that serves as the site for the garden and is a special project of Isanti County Master Gardeners.

“It’s been a real good partnership. The city is helpful and has provided a lot of useful information,” Community Garden Coordinator John Nordin said.

While rental fees enable the garden to sustain its operating the costs, like providing tillage equipment for the use of plot renters, the garden has witnessed a community effort with multiple local donors supporting the garden in its special projects.

The garden has undergone many improvements over the past five years, including an addition of a garden shed, use of city water and a sustainable rainwater collection system in 2010. In 2011, a deer enclosure fence was added to protect the property with the help of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and a larger compost structure was newly added this year with the help of Sunopta.

“Our first year the National Guard loaned us a water tank, called a Water Buffalo,” Nordin said.

He added, “When Lowes was still around, they came out and built our shed in one day as a ‘Lowes Heroes’ project.”

The garden has also seen substantial growth in local participation. Ninety percent of plot holders have a Cambridge mailing address, although residents from Grandy, Harris, Isanti, Ogilvie and Princeton also take advantage of the opportunity to use the garden to plant anything from flowers to a variety of vegetables like squash, lettuce, onions and radishes.

In its first year of operation, the community garden rented 18 plots. That has since grown to the 64 plots rented in 2013. Presently about 150-160 people are gardening on the grounds, and if the demand calls for it, the garden has the option to expand.

“There are a lot of people who are older and lived in the country who now have smaller spaces and use the garden; lots of young families and singles do, too,” Nordin said.

Volunteer groups also make use of the garden with some of the grown produce being donated to the local food shelf and senior center. With a turnover rate of 30-40 percent, volunteers are encouraged to rotate in new participants who can keep up the garden projects that are serving the local community.

For people who have a little harder time with physical mobility, the garden features 12 raised plots for rent.  The Community Garden Board, made up mostly of plot holders, oversees the operation of the garden and ensures the grounds are maintained, which further attests for the desire to make the garden a special space that is accommodating and enjoyable.

The garden is open to the public 24/7 from May 1 to the end of October and can be used as a place to get exercise, enjoy fresh air and meet new people. The grounds have benches for those who would prefer to relax and an area for families and friends to enjoy picnics.

“It’s a common place for people; a lot of people come through and watch it grow,” Nordin said.

Isanti County Master Gardeners is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and accepts in-kind donations to benefit the Cambridge Community Garden. Donations of composted manure, seeds, mulch bags and straw are useful items that growers of a limited income can make use of. To learn more, call 763-689-8255.

Those interested in renting a garden plot can do so through the University of Minnesota Extension Center at the Government Center by calling 763-689-1810. The garden is now accepting applicants for its waiting list.