Highland News Leader

New Douglas garden aims to feed hungry families

Peggy Dunn stands near what will become the new garden in New Douglas. The goal of the garden is to provide fresh produce to local families. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at New Douglas Elementary School on May 26 at 3:30 p.m.
Peggy Dunn stands near what will become the new garden in New Douglas. The goal of the garden is to provide fresh produce to local families. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at New Douglas Elementary School on May 26 at 3:30 p.m. amcdonald@bnd.com

For the past 65 years, Peggy Dunn has had her hands in the dirt, planting seeds and pulling weeds. Now she’s using her green thumb to give the residents in New Douglas a helping hand.

“Last winter, several of us in town fed eight families from our personal gardens,” Dunn said. “We heard they needed food, so we gave it to them.”

But these families weren’t the only ones in need. Dunn says many people around New Douglas can’t afford fresh produce, or have to drive to get.

“They are driving anywhere from five to 15 miles to grocery stores,” she said.

The New Douglas Rec Plex, which once housed the town’s elementary school, was chosen by Dunn as the site for the new garden. Not only is she planting a crop there, but she’s also looking to sew seeds of hope for what she she’s is a frustrated community.

“The real reason (for the garden) is to help the village heal from the loss of their beloved school. Using the old school as the site of the garden could help the village find another focus for the school and maybe bring the people in this village together,” said Dunn, who is serving as the garden coordinator/educator, as well as manager for an affiliated farmers market.

But to grow such a project, there was another element, as important as soil, water and seed, that Dunn also needed — money. So she applied for to Madison County Planning and Development for a Sustainability Environmental Grant. She got it.

“I was told that no one had ever applied for this grant before, and I think I’m the first to receive it,” she said.

Click here for more information on the New Douglas Garden.

The Woodmen of the World chapter in Highland chapter also made a donation.

“We just want to help in any way we can,” said Donna Brendal of the Woodmen of the World. “We decided to give her a donation to buy the supplies she might need.”

Rural King in Highland also donated 500 seeds packs to start the project, allowing Dunn to plant 57 different varieties of vegetables. She also plans on growing fruits by planting four apple and two peach trees.

“This garden is going to be naturally managed by using integrated pest management, and deep mulching. It will be about 2,700 square feet,” Dunn said. “There will be something for everyone to eat.”

Each Wednesday, families in the area can come to the garden and get fresh produce for free. The leftover food that wasn’t given away will be sold — cheaply — on Thursdays at a farmers market in New Douglas.

But it’s not just fresh food that Dunn wants to give people. She wants to educate them on gardening and how to meet the needs of others. To that end, she will hold an educational gardening seminar in New Douglas on June 9.

“I grew up in a town smaller than this,” Dunn said. “And people there helped each other. I just want to make this as easy as possible.”

The garden will officially open during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, May 26 at 3:30 p.m. at the Rec Plex.

New Douglas Garden at a glance

Purpose: The garden will provide easier access to fresh produce to local families, for free. Children will also have a chance to learn about gardening.

Location: The New Douglas Garden will be planted outside the Rec Plex, the site of the former New Douglas Elementary School.

Ribbon Cutting: A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at the garden on Thursday, May 26 at 3:30 p.m.

For more information: Contact Peggy Dunn by phone at (217) 960-6343 or email newdouglasvillagemarket@zoho.com.

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