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Mark Bradford shows off a freshly picked tomato from his garden plot in Biscayne Park.

Gardens keep growing

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News Rosemount,Minnesota 55024 http://www.rosemounttownpages.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/1/0613/garden1rgb.jpg?itok=BVqKalQz
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Gardens keep growing
Rosemount Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

Mark Bradford will tell you the city's garden plot program is one of the best things the city of Rosemount has done.

The Rosemount resident took advantage of the program this summer and has a bountiful crop to show for it. Bradford has a 20x20 plot at Biscayne Park.

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The park is near his house. He can walk or ride his lawn mower to his plot to work. The proximity to his home is key for Bradford because he has Parkinson's disease and can't drive.

The opportunity has led Bradford to get out of his house more. He's also met quite a few people through the garden. Some also have plots and some are just curious neighbors.

"It's been beneficial. I find it healing and I've been eating my vegetables," said Bradford.

Some days are better than others for Bradford, but he said he pushes himself to get out.

The Rosemount Parks and Recreation department started offering garden plots for residents on city owned land last year. In 2011 the city plowed under a strip of its property off of Akron Avenue and offered it to people. The property will someday become an athletic facility but currently is leased out to an area farmer.

The program wasn't a huge success the first year but parks supervisor Tom Schuster said they learned from it. To improve the program they decided to provide plots in neighborhood parks this year. The program made available plots in Winds, Jaycee and Biscayne parks as well as on the Akron Avenue property. In all, the city offered 34 garden plots.

The expansion of the program went over well. Schuster said they had more than 80 requests for garden plots. He said next year they hope to expand to more parks.

"It's been a good program," said Schuster.

Reta Hickle agrees. Hickle is an empty nester who was looking for something to do with her newfound extra time. When she read about the available garden space in the city's winter brochure she decided to put her name on the list.

Hickle has a shaded yard which prevents her from having a vegetable garden at home. She lives near Jaycee Park so the nearby plots seemed perfect.

Hickle had not gardened since she was a kid, so she was nervous about starting one. To prepare she took a couple of classes at Pahl's Market. During one of the classes Gary Pahl offered to help Hickle design her garden.

"He helped me figure it all out," Hickle said.

Hickle's goal was to plant as much as she could. She planted peas, carrots, peppers, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, onion and herbs. The garden really took off and she has more produce than she could eat. Hickle has given vegetables to neighbors and donated some to the Rosemount Family Resource Center Food Shelf.

Through the garden Hickle has gotten to meet all sorts of different people.

"This has been such a healthy, positive experience," she said.

Some residents were worried the gardens might get vandalized or provide ammo for thrill seeking teens but Cheryl Johnson, who shares a plot with friends in Winds Park, said that hasn't been the case. She said they've had no trouble at all thus far.

"I've found it a very positive thing," said Johnson.

All three residents agreed that the program was good addition to the city's parks.

"It's one of the best things I've seen Rosemount do," said Bradford.

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Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
(651) 460-6606
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