In 2015, a former Gideon Pond art teacher had an idea to start an organic garden using straw bales to grow food. With the help of Karen Gray, who was an Americorps tutor at the time, the pair founded the Gideon Pond school garden.
After receiving a Whole Foods grant in 2017 and an Annie’s grant in 2018, the garden has expanded from just 15 bales to 20 bales along with 3 raised beds, a permanent secure fence, Burpee Grow Kits with lights in 13 classrooms and a drip irrigation system.
Students enjoy working in the garden during recess and learn invaluable skills along the way.
“They learn how to share and cooperate in completing tasks,” said Gray. “They gain self-reliance, confidence and an appreciation for the wonders of nature.”
Gray added, “The best part is … we can eat it.”
"We eat everything in the garden,” said one student. “Even the flowers are edible in this garden."
Another student noted, “When I grow up, I’m going to have a garden just like this.”
There are many volunteers that help in the garden, including Cub Scouts, the PTO and a neighborhood church. Regularly, there are Dakota County Master Gardeners – including Danny Reinders, Mary Holac, Noni Heidemann and Jeannine Church – on hand to help the students who are tending to the plants.
The garden wouldn’t exist without the support of Gideon Pond Principal Chris Bellmont and his staff, who help keep the program running. Cooking classes and tastings with the Project Kids Garden Club, as well as a fall harvest potluck, are just a few ways that the garden is used to bring the school community together.
The garden is sponsored by Whole Kids Foundation, a Whole Foods Market grant program, and the University of Minnesota provides curriculum that aligns with state science requirements.