New community garden almost ready to get growing

March 5, 2010 by

Organic gardening is not a new idea, but it is one growing in popularity as consumers become more concerned about the safety of their food and care of the earth.

That was the message Thursday evening from Steven Mitchell, the organic gardener for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and one of the organizers of the new organic community garden that will open this spring on the northeast corner of the Motherhouse property.

Thursday’s meeting also gave the community its first chance to sign up for the individual 12-by-46-foot plots. Anyone interested in signing up for a plot or learning more about the garden may call Cecelia Thrash or Sister Betty Suther at 243-4428.

Organizers hope to have the new garden ready to plant around the middle of April.

Before World War II, Mitchell told his audience Thursday, all farming was organic; the chemicals used today as pesticides and fertilizers actually grew out of wartime science.

By the 1970s, however, farmers and gardeners had started to worry about the effect those chemicals had both on the soil and the people who consumed the produce. Within a decade, he said, organic fruits and vegetables began to be available — but there were no standards defining what “organic” meant on a food label.

That changed with the federal Organic Food Production Act of 1990, which required that the USDA develop national standards for organic products. Today, those standards are administered by the National Organic Program.

In the Concordia Community Garden of Hope, Mitchell and the other organizers will work with gardeners to ensure that plots remain chemical-free while producing a strong yield of crops.

“To me, gardening is just small-scale farming,” Mitchell said, “and farming is taking care of the land while producing the best food possible.”

Thursday’s meeting was the first of a number of educational sessions planned to help people learn about organic gardening and specific gardening practices.

The next session at the Motherhouse auditorium will be at 7 p.m. March 24 when David Coltrain, who recently joined the staff of the Kansas State University Research and Extension River Valley District, will speak. Anyone interested in horticulture and home gardening is urged to attend.

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