MARSHALL - A pair of unusual projects under way at the Western Community Action office in Marshall could make a difference for a lot of area residents, supporters say.
While the Community Blooms garden outside the office continues to grow in produce and local participation, preparations are also being made that would help the garden supply some of its own irrigation water.
"We wanted to have a self-sustaining system and something environmentally friendly," said Allan Bakke, development director at Western Community Action.
Photos by Cindy Votruba (left) and Deb Gau (right)
A basin dug near the community gardens at Western Community Action in Marshall will be future site of a rain garden. Water absorbed by the garden will be able to be pumped into the community garden. Paige Weber of the Christians in Action group is shown at left working on some weeds in the garden last week.
When the community garden was started up last year, the planning and digging for a rain garden also began.
Bakke said construction and some planting for the rain garden would be finished this fall.
A rain garden uses a depression or basin in the ground and plenty of water-loving or aquatic plants to help store and filter rainwater or runoff.
Since the WCA office has a large roof area and a parking lot, Bakke said, there would be a lot of water that could be saved and put to use for irrigation.
Bakke said organizers hope stored rainwater could meet about half of the community garden's water needs.
The community garden's produce, which includes a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, and some fruits and flowers, is shared among garden volunteers, with surplus produce going to the Kitchen Table Food Shelf.
"It's great to be able to have those fresh vegetables," said food shelf and Community Blooms volunteer Lori Lerohl.
Lerohl said Community Blooms is also meant to be as much a learning experience as a way to get ingredients for healthy meals, with cooking, canning and gardening classes held for community members.
Lerohl said participation in Community Blooms has grown from last year.
"Last year we had about 70 people signed up, and this year we've added probably another 20 to 28 people," Lerohl said. Some had never gardened before, she said. So far, volunteers have included families and children, senior citizens, church groups, and the Growing and Going girls' group, she said.
Bakke said the rain garden has progressed a little more slowly. Right now, the garden consists of a channel and a basin dug in the ground, but Bakke said a liner for the basin, a water pump and plants will be added in August, at the same time the WCA parking lot is paved.
One of the most important aspects of both projects, Lerohl and Bakke said, is that they would help serve the area community and bring people together. Lerohl said by volunteering at the Community Blooms garden, participants "met some people that we've never been able to meet before. It's community-building."