This Growing Together feature first appeared in the November/December issue of Northern Gardener.
The Merriam Station Community Garden in St. Paul, this year’s winner of MSHS’ St. Paul Garden Club Award, has a surprising history. The now flourishing spot was first a railroad depot, then houses, and then a dingy, illegal dumpsite until 2012—that’s when gardeners stepped in.
“Although the soil tests showed it was safe to grow food, it has taken time to get the soil to a good place,” says Merriam Station communications coordinator Megan Curran de Nieto. Amazingly, it took only five years to change the derelict strip of land into a chemical free, treasured community green space with almost 100 garden plots, including a giving garden, berry patches, pollinator gardens, multiple compost areas and a custom-designed shed. “We just joined Minnesota Green and love it,” says Megan. “MSHS’s program has completely changed the landscape of the open spaces in our garden.”
With about 170 gardeners who represent a range of age, ethnic and economic diversity, Merriam Station provides an inclusive experience for gardeners. Each year, they’ve added more garden plots to rent, but they still have a waiting list.
Potlucks, neighborhood parties, classes on gardening and musical performances provide fun activities that everyone in the neighborhood can enjoy. On Community Garden Day, visitors taste garden produce, kids paint pots and plant seeds, and gardeners who are also artists display their work, making the celebration engaging on many different levels.
“The garden has allowed us to explore how we can improve our own community—how we can address concerns about food access and land preservation,” says Megan. “Plus, we’re just having so much fun with our land—it’s been a positive experience for all.”