Creston Community Garden Grows Resiliency

posted by Alicia Vasto on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Creston Garden PlansThis summer, hope, resiliency, and community are growing in Creston. The Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) was pleased to be a catalyst for the formation of the Creston Community Garden Wellness Initiative, which constructed Creston’s first community garden earlier this summer.

Covid-19 has exacerbated food insecurity across the country and exposed many vulnerabilities in our food system. A large part of the city of Creston was already considered a food desert before the advent of the pandemic, with a significant number of low-income residents more than a half mile from the nearest supermarket. 

Digging in the Creston GardenTo meet this need, and in an effort to build stronger community relations and resiliency, IEC brought together an Advisory Group to share our interest in helping to establish a community garden in Creston. The Advisory Group was interested and planning began. The goal of the project is to create a vibrant and accessible community garden that serves multiple purposes, including supplementing the local food pantry and providing a community gathering space.

Many organizations came to the table to serve on the Advisory Group and turn the community garden into a reality. Participating organizations and individuals include:

• Appalachian Service Project – Sharon Snodgrass
• Creston City Council – Gabe Carroll, Mayor
• Creston Food Pantry – Mark O’Reilly
• First National Bank – Kyle Wilson
• Greater Regional Health – Jen Kenyon
• Interfaith Alliance of Iowa
• Iowa Environmental Council – Angela Kenyon Davis, Alicia Vasto, and Ingrid Gronstal Anderson
• Iowa State Savings Bank – Skip Kenyon and Hannah West
• Joe Kenyon
• United Methodist Church – Jodi Rushing

The local Farmers Market, Creston Arts Council, and Union County 4-H have also been engaged to consider how to develop the garden as a multipurpose community and education space. 

The United Methodist Church agreed to serve as the site of the garden. Just north of the Creston uptown neighborhood, the church had an unused green space. The church also serves as a satellite location for the Creston Food Pantry, supporting over 75 families in the area. It was a perfect location for the garden.

Local Creston businesses quickly put their support behind the project. Akin Building Center, Tractor Supply Co., Innovative Industries, and Bomgaars donated materials and plants for the garden. Weishaar Farms donated a truckload of topsoil to form the garden beds. First National Bank and Iowa State Savings Bank provided the first donations to get the rest of the supplies necessary to construct and establish the garden.

Creston Garden FrontloaderOn the morning of June 13, IEC staff joined a group of volunteers in Creston to prepare and plant two raised beds, wearing masks and using extra care to stay socially distant and sanitize tools. It was truly a community effort, from Mayor Gabe Carroll constructing the beds with his father, to Skip Kenyon riding his small front loader across town to move the soil into the beds, to several volunteers planting and watering the seedlings. A variety of vegetables and herbs were planted, including tomatoes, peppers, peas, and eggplant. A second group of volunteers, primarily from Pastor Jodi Rushing’s congregation, worked in the afternoon to establish a ground-level bed out of upcycled railroad ties. They planted squash and pumpkins.

The Appalachian Service Project is a service group that travels to the Appalachian region to construct conduct home repairs for underserved people. The group was not able to travel this year due to Covid-19. Instead, they volunteered their time to the community garden by constructing and painting a tool shed. Mark O'Reilly and Sharon Snodgrass worked tirelessly to finish and install the shed in the garden.

Planting in CrestonSince the initial garden planting, dozens of families, local businesses, and community members have volunteered to water and weed the vegetable beds each week, demonstrating their support for the initiative and helping produce healthy food for their neighbors. During a time when the news seems mostly discouraging, it is heartwarming to see a community come together to support each other and create a welcoming space. It reminds us what is important during a time of crisis – shared commitment to our communities, willingness to pitch in to help others, and creating something positive when the opportunity arises. 

Creston Community GardenIEC is proud to have been a part of the inspiration and of the progress made on the Creston Community Garden, and grateful to the community that made it a reality and continues the work to increase food security. We look forward to strengthening our partnership by continuing to provide resources and support for the project, and increasing community resiliency in Creston.

  1. healthy lands
  2. healthy soil

About The Author

Alicia joined the Council in 2019. She grew up in Adel, Iowa. She previously worked as the director of the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition, where she supported environmental educators and advanced environmental literacy. Alicia holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke Uni ... read more