Friends of Silverwood Park

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  • A view of the gardens in early spring, 2014
  • Renegades 4H hosting a tomato tasting and seed saving workshop
  • A Hmong elder working in the gardens at Silverwood Park
  • Summer school students using hand tools to weed the gardens
  • Renegades 4H members transplanting heirloom tomato seedlings

In March, 2014, the Friends of Silverwood Park was the grateful recipient of a Community Partners grant that allowed us to purchase a wide range of hand tools to help establish and care for our initial 8-acre garden plot at Silverwood Park.

Silverwood Park is the newest Dane County park and is a park with a unique mission to support and promote sustainable agriculture education. As the park develops, the Friends of Silverwood Park is responsible for coordinating gardening efforts among various partner groups. For the 2014 growing season, 8 acres of land was divided up among the following partners:

  • Edgerton School District summer school students
  • Edgerton School District FFA
  • Renegades 4-H
  • Freedom Inc.
  • Operation Fresh Start
  • Friends of Silverwood Park
  • UW-Extension

While the primary work was done by these groups, we also saw many other volunteers from the school district staff and the general community.

The purchase of hand tools allowed us to involve many people in the gardening work. We set up an area in one of the sheds where the shared tools are stored. Over the course of the growing season, the tools were well used and well taken care of. The Friends of Silverwood Park will be able to offer this tool collection for use by partner groups again during the next growing season.

One of our goals for this growing season was to give us a chance to develop these partnerships, grow food, and teach others. We feel that we were very successful with these goals, and having the proper equipment to work with was a big help.

Crew members from Operation Fresh Start have been involved in growing produce to use in their program kitchens to help feed the crews for lunch.

Freedom Inc. worked with three generations of Hmong families, growing food in traditional ways. Over 140 families were fed using produce from their garden plot.

The Edgerton School District had over 20 students attend a 3-week summer school program where they helped plant many vegetables and do some initial weeding. The FFA students and volunteers worked over the summer to continue to plant and harvest. By the end of the growing season, over 800 pounds of produce had been shared with the community food bank, many students were able to share fresh produce with their families, and the school district food service began to incorporate some of the produce in the school lunch program. The FFA also hosted a “pumpkin field day” with the district 4th graders, sharing the history of the farm with the students and letting them pick pumpkins.

The Renegades 4-H group learned about heirloom seeds and had the chance to start tomatoes from seed, grow the plants, sample over 30 varieties, and learn to save the seed so they can share with others and start plants for next season.

This has been a very successful growing season. All the partners that were involved during the 2014 season plan to be back in 2015. We will be expanding the area of cultivation from 8acres to 16-acres.

We hosted tours all summer long and shared the park with the general public. We also hosted a “Harvest Festival” in August that was open to the general public. We are continuing to find ways to improve our communication between groups and to find ways to involve and educate the community.

Thank you very much to the Dane County Environmental Council for supporting us!

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