Near the corner of Pioneer Trail and Flying Cloud Drive, just east of a Speedway gas station, Eden Prairie residents have access to one of the city’s three community gardens.
The individual garden plots at Pioneer Trail Gardens, as well as Duck Lake Trail Gardens and Pioneer Park Gardens, are available on a first-come, first-served basis through the Eden Prairie Parks and Recreation Department. These plots can be leased for a small annual fee and are accessible from May through October. (All garden plots across the three city gardens have been sold out for the 2023 season.)
Gretchen Haynes, a photographer for Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN), visited the garden plots on Wednesday, July 5.
During her visit, she engaged in conversations with the gardeners and discovered a vibrant and diverse community of individuals. United by their shared love for nature and a passion for growing their own food and flowers, this multicultural neighborhood of gardeners embodies a rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds.
Martha Kissell busily tended to the plants in her garden plot. She and her husband, Brad, have been gardening here for a few years. Martha came out specifically to do some weeding, while her husband wasn’t able to join her. She jokingly mentioned that he would regret not coming to weed with her if she gets her photo published.
The next person Haynes spoke to was Suresh Neupane.
He and his wife have been enthusiastic gardeners for seven years, originally from Nepal. Their love for gardening is so strong that they maintain a double plot, which they share with their extended family.
This year, Suresh is growing a variety of crops including okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, and onions.
Jan Humphrey used to have a plot in the community garden years ago but took a break from it. However, she has returned this year and is thoroughly enjoying her time in the garden.
Her dedication is evident with an impressive 27 tomato plants. She plans to use the tomatoes to make soup for freezing and also intends to try her hand at canning this year. In addition to tomatoes, Jan is growing green beans, squash, beets, peas, kale, scallions, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and pumpkins.
Jan cherishes the sense of community fostered by gardening alongside others. She has formed a friendly connection with the gardeners in the next plot, who hail from Kenya. Jan enjoys engaging in conversations with them about their plants and learning how they use them to prepare traditional dishes from their home country. On the day of the interview, Jan was seen picking some fresh green beans and squash from her garden.
Stan Houston and his son, Chris Houston, share a garden plot.
Both are skating coaches affiliated with the Eden Prairie Figure Skating Club. Their journey into gardening began three years ago when Stan’s granddaughter, Aliya (now 8 years old), expressed an interest in trying her hand at growing food.
They also share the plot with one of their students, Greta. Chris and Greta engage in an annual competition, and this year’s challenge revolves around growing the tallest corn stalk.
One garden plot is under the care of three generations of families.
Leased by Diana and David Pavlyuk, along with their children William and Gia, this is their first year gardening at this location in Eden Prairie.
However, they previously had a community garden plot when they resided in Minneapolis. Assisting them in tending the garden are Diana’s parents, Natalia and Slava Krasnokutski, who live in Shakopee.
A few plots down, Brendan Banteh and his daughter, Helena, can be found working on their garden.
Gardening is a cherished family affair for the Bantehs. Having grown up in Cameroon, Brendan learned gardening from his mother and now passes down the knowledge to his own children. Each child has their own designated section within the garden plot, allowing them to grow whatever they desire in their respective areas.
During the visit, Brendan proudly showcased a large section of the plot where he cultivates a plant known as “Nyama Nyama,” which holds a significant place in Cameroon cuisine. The leaves are boiled, then mixed with palm oil and seasonings. Typically, it is enjoyed with Fufu, a dish made from corn flour that resembles couscous.
Brenda Uting, an administrative assistant with the Eden Prairie Parks and Recreation Department, explained to Haynes that registration for the community garden plots opens in mid-March.
Priority is given to current gardeners, allowing them to retain their existing plots. However, new plots become available each year as well. For more detailed information about the community gardens and their locations, visit the city website.
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