April showers bring May flowers…and herbs…and vegetables to feed a community. A garden is a symbol of hope, and we need all the hope we can get right now.
The Wisconsin Heights Community Garden in Mazomanie is a thriving example of a community coming together to meet the needs of residents. Like many great ideas that are fully implemented, the results exceeded expectations and paid dividend in unexpected ways.
The idea for the garden began with a Sauk Prairie Healthcare-sponsored community survey in 2012. “There was considerable interest in having a community garden -- somewhere,” said Ken Carlson, Vice President of Planning and Business Development.
The garden was planned for Mazomanie, which is considered a food “desert,” with no grocery store between Cross Plains and Spring Green.
Tammy Adler and Sara Shackleton are active in their communities and have served in board positions at Sauk Prairie Healthcare. They were both involved in getting the garden off (or in) the ground.
Tammy contacted Mazomanie and Black Earth community members and invited them to the inaugural meeting where representatives from Sauk Prairie Healthcare explained the project. Tammy said, “There was considerable interest in the garden and planning, such as the location, types of plots, water source(s), follow-up meetings, etc.”
Over the past years, the garden has grown, moved locations and fought off a nearby brush waste disposal site plan. Many individuals and groups helped make the garden possible, including master gardeners, people who rented plots and interested citizens. The Foundation applied for and received a grant to build a shed.
The garden exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Tammy said, “The initiative far exceeded my wildest dreams. The garden demonstrates the power and ultimate success of local communities working together. My hope was to have five to 10 families who wanted to participate.
“The first year we had 10 to12 garden plots and the garden took off from there. The gardeners took the idea and ran with it. Within three years the garden has been relocated, lighting and fencing added, a master gardener is now facilitating the effort.”
Today the garden covers 1.75 acres and supports 28 plots, a food pantry garden and a pumpkin patch. Last year, the garden provided more than 1,000 pounds of fresh produce for local food pantries.
Sara said, “Healthy food, getting out in the sunshine, getting intergenerational activities going, are all part of a very healthy lifestyle and that’s what we wanted in our community. We have kids programs once a month during the summer where our young people can learn about gardening. Future plans include mentoring future gardeners by pairing people that want to learn how to garden with more experienced gardeners.
“It’s referred to as a hidden gem by the community. People value it for what it is, a beautiful spot. Last summer a couple got engaged in the garden. It’s that beautiful and special.”
Sara loves gardening, and working on this project allowed her to indulge her passion. She said, “My ‘other’ garden was way too big, if I garden in the community garden, I’m limited. It’s a great place to socialize, you meet people you’d never otherwise know and it enhances your life. At the end of the year, we have a picnic, the gardeners all come with dishes they’ve made with what they’ve grown.”
Sara said that she appreciates how the gardens provide an opportunity for all gardeners to express their creativity. She said, “It’s accessible, one of our participants has arthritis and she organized the cow tank gardens so she could work more easily.”
The garden has a Facebook page -- search Wisconsin Heights Community Garden for more information on volunteering and renting a plot.
Your gifts helped make the Wisconsin Heights Community Garden possible.
To donate money to support the garden, go to SaukPrairieHealthcare.org/give.