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May 15, 2014

Growing a Healthy Community

New London residents will soon have access to community garden beds, thanks to a collaboration of the city, New London Lions Club, local churches and ThedaCare.

New London residents will soon have access to community garden beds, thanks to a collaboration of the city, New London Lions Club, local churches and ThedaCare.

“I have every faith it will be successful and that it will bring the community together,” said Kate Croskery-Jones, pastor at United Methodist Church in New London, one of the host sites for a community garden. “It will be good for the community on a whole lot of levels.”

Chad Hoerth, director of parks and recreation, said the city had been considering community gardens for a while but could not find ideal property. “On our end this was something we’ve heard requests for,” he said, noting the interest surfaced five years ago through a city survey.

A member of the Lions Club reached out, saying that Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church had a suitable site. “We stated talking and they got excited about it,” said Jana Burg, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, another host site for a community garden.

The city and Lutheran church collaborated. Then the city learned United Methodist church had also been considering a community garden on their property and had received a grant from the Lark Fund of the United Methodist Church to start a garden. The groups joined forces and received added support from ThedaCare’s Community Health Action Team’s Plunge into Obesity, which supports community gardens as a health benefit. “Scientific evidence supports community gardens, and increasing availability of fruits and vegetables helps reduce obesity by providing healthier food options,” said Kaye Thompson with ThedaCare’s Community Health Improvement.

“I really appreciate ThedaCare’s investment in community health,” said Croskery-Jones. “At another level this is a grass roots community health issue.”

Hoerth said the amount of support and commitment has been encouraging. “We had all these groups independently forming and luckily they are all coming together to make this a reality,” he said.

Burg agreed. “It’s really great because it brings more attention to it and becomes a meaningful way for different groups to work together,” she said. “We hope a lot of people will come forward and fill them up.”

The community gardens have received grants and donations including a $3,000 grant from New London CHAT, a $3,000 grant from the New London Lions Club, and up to $1,500 from local businesses.

Members from Rawhide helped build the beds. There will be 24 beds at each church site, including a couple that will be handicap accessible. Another plot will be dedicated to local food pantries.

Hoerth said the city’s park and recreation department seeks to provide programs and services that create community. “This is just one other aspect of creating a healthy community,” he said.

Croskery-Jones agreed, noting communities that “tend to be healthier have community gardens. A community garden is an investment in the physical, psychological and spiritual health of a community.”

Burg has always enjoyed her own garden and hopes others will enjoy ownership in a garden too. “We all thought it is a healthy way of getting seasonal food for your family,” she said.

For information to rent a plot, contact the New London Parks and Recreation office at (920) 982-8521 or register online at: Plots are still open and available for rent on a first come first serve basis. They cost $20 for residents and $25 for non-residents of the City of New London.