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June 14, 2017
Community unites with Murphy Elementary gardens

Vegetables aren’t the only thing growing at the Murphy Community Garden. This year, community gardener Dr. Anne Tofte and second-grade teacher Ruth Tatter explored ways to increase the Murphy Elementary garden plots and found a community ready to support it.

The Murphy Community Garden is located at the bottom of Murphy Sledding Hill. Since 2013, Murphy students have been cultivating a small portion of the plot. Second graders planted things like tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and pumpkins and then harvested the produce as third graders in the fall. Kids would have the opportunity to visit through the summer as the garden grew and then sample the fruits of their labor in soup and pumpkin smoothies.

“We started the project to expose kids to the benefits of gardening,” explained Tatter. But now the project has grown into so much more. In order to gain the greatest yield, Tatter and Dr. Tofte began to look into square-foot gardening and to find ways to get a jump start on the short northern growing season. And, the community embraced the project with open arms. Donors supplied money and materials that enabled the group to purchase a grow cart and install raised square-foot garden beds. Volunteers constructed the beds and Murphy Elementary alumni spent an early morning mixing and preparing the soil.

“I want to make it as easy as possible to get kids excited about eating healthy and to get their families excited about it too,” said Dr. Tofte. “Kids are much more likely to try something new if they’re involved in growing it.

Murphy students planted their gardens the last week of school with tomatoes, kale, broccoli, carrots, onions, potatoes, basil, and pumpkins. 

Kids enrolled in the Itasca Area Community Education’s Camp Discovery will be caring for the beds over the summer. And, second graders are asked to stop by periodically to check on the beds and sample the goodies. “Ultimately our goal is to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Tatter.

Donors to the project include Ace Hardware, Blandin Foundation, Bloomers, Donors Choose, Home Depot, Horace Mann, ISD 318 Endowment, L&M, Lake Country Power, and MN Power. The project will benefit kids for years to come.