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Brown County celebrates 25 years of community gardens

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 3:27 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A program launched by U.W. Extension Brown County to combat food insecurity in the community celebrates a milestone this year.

The Brown County Community Gardens program continues to grow in size and impact 25 years later.

Modeled after success in larger urban areas, the concept for a community garden first sprouted in the Green Bay area in 1996.

“People who were really interested in the concept as well as a number of people who perhaps don’t have a very large yard or are in a rental property and were looking for a place to garden, so it was just kind of the stars coming in alignment of people who were interested in the concept and people who needed land as as a result, that led to our first garden,” says Judy Knudsen, Brown County Extension Director.

Two and a half decades later, the garden program is flourishing.

“Right now we have 400 garden plots and about 250 gardeners, so when we started out we had one garden and maybe 20 gardeners,” says Knudsen.

Spread throughout the county, the community gardens allow residents to rent a plot for a nominal fee.

In return, they vow to take care of that plot, then have the option to consume their produce, share it or even sell it.

Nancy Vang has been a gardener for 11 years in one of the 12 community gardens next to Green Bay Community Church.

“I like to eat my food, or something they don’t have in the store, So I can grow it and I can help myself,” explains Vang.

Moving forward, Brown County Extension is hoping to continue growing the program, by recruiting land owners and businesses to donate at least an 1/8th of an acre, or quarter acre. to become a community garden.

Knudsen says currently the gardens produce hundreds of thousands of dollars in food, reducing hunger in the community.

“The fact that we have organizations that are willing to provide land for some new community gardens as well as some of our gardens we currently have have waiting lists of gardeners, so it looks like that interest is going to continue for years to come,” says Knudsen.

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