East Bethel business plants the seeds for a community garden

A few weeks ago, an East Bethel businessman envisioned a community garden where fresh produce could be grown and donated to a local food shelf.

North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf Director Annabelle Budde and Tim Sether, an employee of Rivard Companies, work on the community garden. Photo by Eric Hagen
North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf Director Annabelle Budde and Tim Sether, an employee of Rivard Companies, work on the community garden. Photo by Eric Hagen

That vision is now a reality, and many people have and will have a hand in making this a successful venture.

On the site of the Marathon River Country Co-op gas station on the northwest corner of Highway 65 and 187th Lane in East Bethel sits 15 4 foot by 8 foot western red cedar planters that have been filled with soil and fruit and vegetable plants.

Volunteers will take care of the planting, watering and harvesting, according to the brainchild of this idea, Mike Rivard, owner of Rivard Companies out of East Bethel. No garden plots will be leased.

Annabelle Budde, director of the North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf, said its goal has been to offer more healthy dining options for clients and this community garden will offer a plentiful bounty of fine produce such as peppers, onions, potatoes, raspberries, squash, strawberries, lettuce and so on. There are even several trees with honeycrisp and honeygold apples growing on them.

Budde said some of NACE’s clients may have grown up in the inner city where there may not seem to be enough space for a garden or they may still live on a smaller property.

Budde plans to tell clients about the garden just across Highway 65 from NACE so they can see where some of their food is coming from and learn that you do not need a large space to grow some of your own food.

“It’s an educational purpose to show the community how little of a spot it takes to grow your own garden,” she said.

Many hands in this garden

Rivard Companies was not the only local business that had a hand in making this community garden possible.

For starters, the Marathon River Country Co-op gas station allowed them to use a portion of its property that is nearest to the pond.

Rivard Companies donated the western red cedar material and Fleetwoods Cabinet Shop assisted with the manufacturing, according to Sean St. Hilaire, who works at Rivard Companies. They placed the garden boxes about four feet apart to allow wheelchairs to be able to navigate through the community garden.

The Green Barn, Green Valley Greenhouse, Holtz Nursery, Malmborgs Garden Center, Nowthen Nursery, 101 Market and Viking Tree chipped in the fruit and vegetable plants and trees.

MN Mulch and Soil brought in the composted manure soil, while Plaistad Companies provided soil for the garden.

Village Bank gave access to its water line for the community garden and MT Carpenter sent people out to hook up this water system.

Rivard said his company has been manufacturing these garden beds since 2008 and selling them to hardware stores and garden centers across the country. He was also contacted by community garden associations that wanted these garden beds in order to grow food for local food shelves. One group from Ohio e-mailed him a picture of one of these gardens where his company’s garden beds were used.

This got Rivard interested in doing a similar community garden locally. He talked with the general manager of the Marathon River Country Co-op gas station, who ultimately agreed to let the garden be on a corner of their property and the other donors started falling into place.

Rivard was not familiar with the NACE Food Shelf when this project started, but he found out that there was a food shelf right in East Bethel that could benefit from this project. When he called Budde and found out about the walk-in cooler and display cooler they just got, the timing was perfect.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]