Learning with help from Hope Haven and ISU

Hope Haven clients have benefited from community camaraderie with a learning experience for those attending the facility throughout the summer. A new project at the sit on the southeast edge of Sibley is vegetable and flowerbeds cared for by Hope Haven personnel.

Heading the gardening instruction is Sue Boettcher. She is the program coordinator for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Dickinson and Emmet counties. “I used to do Osceola and they asked if I would come over here and do some Hope Haven programming,” Boettcher said. “I come over here once a month and do theirs. This differs a little bit from Dickinson because they don’t do the gardens.”

As the idea percolated, a third group of participants, Mike McCarty’s industrial technology students at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School, was added to the mix to construct the raised beds for the Sibley-based program. “Hope Haven had mentioned they wanted a garden, and we had decided to reach out to the school,” Boettcher said.

The Extension team bought the wood. The shop class did the building. Schnepf Lumber of Sibley helped move the bunks to the site. A donation of soil hauled in by Pete Clauson finished up the preparation stage. “The dirt was delivered, and it took a little bit for us to get together to plant. We didn’t grow anything. Not a single thing – weeds, nothing – until we shifted it all around and evened it out and then we started getting weeds,” said My Day program lead Jessica Peterson.

A salsa garden theme directed the selection of the vegetables planted, which included tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions, radishes, carrots, basil and oregano. The second bunk contained a variety of annual flowers chosen with help from Echter’s Greenhouse.

During the July 11 session with Boettcher, clients spent their time talking about what was growing, working the dirt, staking the tomatoes, mulching and watering. Volunteers took turns loosening the dirt around the plants before watering the beds and mulching the peppers and tomatoes.

“Master Gardeners would probably do more of this. I’ve offered the class several times. I’m an avid gardener,” Boettcher said. “They had an interest, and I was like, OK, let’s make it happen. I have the freedom of that with my programs as a program coordinator. We just thought out how we could make it work with the community. It’s been a great program.”

Clients water and monitor the garden each day Monday-Friday when they are on site and are patiently waiting for the vegetables of their labor to be ready for picking. Canning and freezing their produce will help clients learn additional skills.

As the staff and clients watched Boettcher take over watering duty on the vegetable bed, Paterson shared an observation with those assisting with the garden. “We learned a valuable lesson today, guys. We have not been watering our garden enough,” Peterson said. “It’s our trial run. We’ll see how well it goes.”

Hope Haven staff intend to continue the program in 2024 and beyond if they experience a season that’s deemed successful. Other topics covered by Boettcher in previous sessions include healthy snacks and the My Plate guidelines, birding and decorating birdhouses, budgeting, and baking projects such as decorating gingerbread and Christmas sugar cookies and fruit pizza.

“It will be fun for them to be able to make something out of what they grow. Some have gardened with their families, but some have not,” Boettcher said. “So really, it’s giving them the opportunity. We just figured out how we could get some partners and made it happen.”

Article by Sandra Jenson, Northwest IA Review

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