Published on January 19, 2017

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Bring Virginia Community Together

Freshly grown lettuce straight from the garden may seem like a dream in the dead of winter, but community growers are enjoying the fruits of their labor at Virginia' Olcott Park Greenhouse.  Dawn Trexel has been working with folks at the greenhouse.  They come and plant the seeds, and she takes care of tending to their produce, until it' ready for harvest.

"People love being able to grow things in the middle of winter, especially when they get to harvest and enjoy the fresh produce themselves," Trexel says.  "It's quite a treat to eat something grown locally in the middle of the northern Minnesota winter!"

The effort is part of a collaboration to bring healthier foods to Iron Range tables.  Called the "Rutabaga Project," multiple community groups, food producers, neighborhoods and various organizations have joined forces with a goal of providing access to healthy foods through a variety of means.  Essentia is one of several organizations providing funds to the Rutabaga Project.

"Local, healthy food not only improves the health of the people who live in the community, but supports a vibrant economy," says Jean Larson, who specializes in community health interventions for Essentia Health.  "It' exciting to be a partner on a project that is focused on economic, social and environmental conditions that promote health."

Larson says that in Minnesota, one in five families face hunger or food insecurity.  "This is an area we can truly make an impact. By teaching families how to grow their own freshly grown food we are supporting generations to come with foundational skills to eat healthy," Larson adds.

Along with the greenhouse, the Rutabaga Project also has five garden sites in Virginia that contain about sixty plots available to rent beginning  in March with plantings starting in May. 

  • 216 Chestnut Street, handicapped-accessible raised bed gardens
  • Pine Mill Court
  • Northside Park
  • North Bailey' Lake
  • AEOA Youth Foyer

"I love being able to help people grow their own food and take pride in enjoying the product of their efforts," says Trexel.  "To me, it's about creating connections between people and food.  By actively participating in growing their own food, it gets people thinking about where their food comes from, how it's grown and processed."

Interested gardeners can email growingtogethervirginia@gmail.com or call (218) 750-1877 for more information.