Big Rapids Community Gardens provide place to grow

Lauren Tatum, manager for the Second Avenue site of the Big Rapids Community Gardens, explains the different types of produce and plants people grow in their garden beds. This year people have grown corn, peppers, squash, beets, flowers and more. (Pioneer photos/Emily Grove)

BIG RAPIDS — Living in the country or having a large yard is not a necessity for people in and around Big Rapids looking to grow their own produce.

Potatoes, tomatoes, beets, bell peppers, corn, herbs, flowers and more were all grown this summer in beds at the various Big Rapids Community Gardens.

The Big Rapids Community Garden group was formally organized as a nonprofit corporation in 2013, after informally starting the year before. There are three locations — the Second Avenue site located near Second Avenue and Adams Street, the Hillcrest Site on Bridge Street and the newest site at the Big Rapids Community Library.

Anyone is welcome to be part of the group and rent a plot at one of the gardens, explained Lauren Tatum, site manager for the Second Avenue garden.

“Each bed is rentable space and it’s available to all who are interested,” Tatum said. “It’s open to anyone who needs and wants to garden. The space is yours to maintain for the season and you can grow anything you’d like.”

While people may bring their own tools and supplies, each site has items available for gardeners to use, such as hoses, shovels, wheelbarrows and more.

Garden beds are filled with growing tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other produce at the Big Rapids Community Garden Second Avenue site.

Eric Williams, president of the Big Rapids Community Garden board, helped start the group nearly five years ago. The goal was to provide access to garden space for those who may not have it available where they live.

“This city has 65 percent of its residents renting housing, so we know in Big Rapids there are thousands of people who don’t own the ground they live on,” he said. “Also, there are homeowners who just may not have the space or soil to have a garden on their property.”

This year there were about 30 gardeners who participated in the Big Rapids Community Gardens.

Gardeners of all different experience levels have rented spaces at the gardens, Williams said.

“We have very accomplished gardeners and novice gardeners,” he said. “The garden managers are very willing to help those who need a little assistance.”

The raised garden beds are made with non-treated lumber. Sites have both small and large beds available, sizes 4-feet by 4-feet and 4-feet by 12-feet. The small beds cost $15 to rent for the season, while the larger beds cost $25.

Plots are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is typically from March until July, but applications will be accepted any time of the year for those looking to get involved.

If plots become abandoned yet still produce vegetables or fruit, the items are donated to local organizations, Tatum said.

“We feel it’s best not to let stuff go to waste, so I’ll take things into Project Starburst or other pantries,” she said.

The group is organized and funded by volunteers. Williams said they are always hoping more people will get involved.

“We have board elections coming up and we’d love to have some new faces,” he said.

Lauren Tatum’s daughter, Londyn, eats vegetables grown at the Big Rapids Community Garden Second Avenue site.

Tatum said the gardens are a success and people are enjoying them.

“The gardeners I’ve talked to are really happy with production,” she said. “They are getting food and fun out of it.”

More beds are expected to be built at the library site next year, Williams said.

Anyone interested in registering or getting more information can visit the Big Rapids Community Garden Facebook page, or stop at Williams’ law office at 524 N. State St. or any of the garden sites.

Along with vegetables and fruits, gardeners have grown flowers at the Big Rapids Community Garden Second Avenue site.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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