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New project introduces kids to the garden

Neither master gardeners nor novices let a little rain keep them from getting their vegetables planted.

Skies were gray Saturday and rain fell violently at times, but that didn't seem to deter a small crew of gardeners at the Rosemount Family Resource Center. Sheltered by umbrellas or by an overhang in front of the building they dug and planted and brought life to small raised gardens that over the next several weeks will serve as hobby, classroom and source of food for the young gardeners and others in their neighborhood.

The gardens, six in all, are the result of a project put together by the Dakota County Master Gardeners. Master gardeners were on hand Saturday to help pick out and plant vegetables. Ten boys and girls who are regular visitors to the resource center did much of the planting in the three-foot by three-foot beds.

Master gardener John Zweber led the project. He said master gardeners had been interested for a while in starting a community garden at the resource center. They'd applied for grants to help cover costs, but nothing came through.

"But we knew it was important," Zweber said. "We wanted to get some type of a vegetable garden, a fresh source of produce for people who utilize the resource center.

"They don't necessarily have the means to get anywhere else to be involved in a program like this, so we brought this to them."

Zweber said he wanted the kids to know they don't need large yards to grow things.

The gardens planted Saturday will serve several purposes. Zweber will return on Tuesday afternoons throughout the summer to teach kids who are interested about gardening and help them tend their lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. The kids who participate will take home some of the vegetables they grow, and some will go to the food shelf located at the family resource center to supplement the boxed and canned foods stocked there.

Zweber hopes the project will teach the kids about the importance of healthful eating.

Shira Rabinowicz, neighborhood services coordinator at the family resource center, believes the gardens will be a good addition.

"It kind of ties in to the family resource center and being very youth- and child focused and being able to educate the kids on healthy eating," Rabinowicz said. "That's something we've been trying to do here."

Rabinowicz said the kids who participated enjoyed themselves despite the weather Saturday. And she sees plenty of benefits for the kids who stay involved.

"They're learning how to garden and there's something tangible coming about that they can bring home and bring back to their families," she said. "They can all learn to eat healthy together. I think that's such a valuable message that we're sending out to the community."

Zweber was happy with the response he got to the first gardening session, and he hopes the program will, well, grow.

"We're hoping to get some interest from the adults and parents as well, so hopefully we can expand," Zweber said.