Putting ‘green thumbs’ to good use | SierraSun.com

Putting ‘green thumbs’ to good use

Lindsey RhynardRyan Curtis is building a new garden fence as part of his Eagle Scout project

This summer Truckee residents have an opportunity to put their green thumbs to good use in ways that can benefit others with Project M.A.N.A.’s community garden project.

The garden, tucked behind the ball field and skate park at Truckee’s Regional Park off Highway 267, started in 1996 as a means of teaching the secrets of high mountain gardening and bringing the community together to grow produce – both for personal consumption and for those who are less fortunate.

This year, the garden needs volunteers and materials to fill the 12 or so beds with hearty crops of squash, strawberries, spinach and the like that will thrive in Truckee’s high altitude environment.

“We’d like people to see the garden as a resource with an educational value as well as the healing value that working with plants and soil can have,” said Kim Hanson, Truckee Director for Project M.A.N.A. (Making Adequate Nutrition Accessible), a hunger relief organization that’s been serving the North and West Shores of Lake Tahoe and Truckee since 1991.

“The garden is a great way to contribute to the community by growing food for people in need and it also helps families and individuals access more nutritional food and produce.”

The garden also provides a fun way to learn and save money.

“I think this is a great opportunity for Truckee because a lot of people up here don’t know that much about gardening, mainly because the season is so short and the conditions make it so hard to do,” said Soren Messner-Zidell, VISTA volunteer and Truckee Program Coordinator for Project M.A.N.A.

“It’s also great because it teaches people how to provide for themselves rather than always having to rely on others or places like Safeway for food.”

There are several ways for families, individuals and groups to get involved with the garden, which needs quite a bit of work at this point.

For those willing to get their hands dirty, Project M.A.N.A. is still taking sign-ups for beds where people can pick and choose to plant a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers to their individual liking.

“Starting next week, we’re going to begin holding open volunteer hours where people can just come and work in the garden at their leisure,” Hanson said.

The garden will be open Tuesdays, 3-5 p.m. and Thursdays, 4-7 p.m.

Hanson said Project M.A.N.A. also plans to offer periodic gardening classes for children and adults. The first course for children will take place on June 25 , 9:30-11 a.m. Hanson said interested parties should call in advance.

She also noted that the garden, which relies heavily on donations, is always in need of supplies including compost, manure, weed-free straw, vegetable, herb and flower starts, and seeds.

The community garden is just one vehicle Project M.A.N.A is using to make a difference in the Truckee community.

Last year alone, the organization provided more than 90,613 meals and served more than 5,528 households and 22,112 individuals through its weekly emergency food distribution programs. Much of that program relies on donations from local businesses and the manpower of local church members, who volunteer to run distribution on a monthly basis.

In addition to distribution, Project M.A.N.A. runs the FACE program, which provides a combination of food, companionship and other services to homebound clients.

“It’s more than just about food, but about assessing an individual’s needs and environment,” Messner-Zidell said. “We recently helped one of our clients, who we’ve delivered groceries to for years, have the wiring in her kitchen repaired because it was a fire hazard. We also helped get her to an optometrist so she could receive help with some eye problems she was having. Her story is a really good example of where we hope to go with this program.”

The organization also focuses on community outreach through classroom courses on nutrition for elementary students, hunger awareness presentations for middle school students, and the “Kids Can Cook Program,” which offers after-school cooking classes to local students.

As for the future of the community garden and Project M.A.N.A.’s other programs, Hanson said she hopes to expand community partnerships and increase involvement.

Project M.A.N.A.’s Executive Director George LeBard said he wants the garden to become a place where people, young and old, can come together in a productive, thriving, educational environment.

“Gardening is difficult, especially in our climate and environment where we’ve got to deal with frost and various critters, but the challenges are also what make it such a rewarding thing,” he said.

For more information, contact Kim Hanson at 582-4079.

Upcoming Fund Raising Event for Project M.A.N.A.:

Wine Tasting and Silent Auction

June 23, Sunday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., at PlumpJack Inn in Olympic Valley

$25 per person, $40 per couple – tickets are available for purchase at Truckee Chamber of Commerce

For more information, call 546-2416

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