When the weather is agreeable in the Fargo-Moorhead area, many community members can be seen rollerblading, biking, running and group exercising during various StreetsAlive events.
Over the years, this movement has allowed people of all ages to use the resources around them to encourage physical activity.
In the same way, the new GardensAlive movement is aiming to use available resources to teach people how to eat healthy by encouraging gardening.
“We’re trying to inspire the community to become involved in gardening and realize the many benefits of gardens,” said Alyssa Gullekson, a senior majoring in health education and interning with Rory Beil, director of CassClayAlive, at Dakota Medical Foundation.
Both StreetsAlive and GardensAlive are directed by Beil under CassClayAlive. The main objective of these movements is to bring awareness to the importance of creating a healthy environment in the region. “Only one in five people are consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables,” Gullekson said. “Gardening is one way to help increase fruit and vegetable consumption.”
Because the F-M area is largely inundated with college students, GardensAlive is striving to teach college students about the simplicity and benefits of gardening.
Gullekson has been spearheading this movement on the NDSU campus, because she realizes that college students are in a stage of life where they can start making gardening a priority and incorporating it into their lives.
“For college students, if they have the option to grow their own produce, they may choose to eat vegetables more often and might possibly be able to taste the difference,” Gullekson said. “After interning with Rory, making the healthiest choice the easiest choice has really become my own personal mission.”
Growing up, Gullekson admired the skills she acquired while learning how to garden, and she craves for other students to share her passion for gardening as well. “My parents had a large garden where we would grow just about everything you can imagine,” she said. “We would sometimes have meals almost completely out of the garden.”
In order to cultivate this movement, booths were set up around NDSU, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College in the weeks before and after spring break that gave away hundreds of free growing kits to college students. “If they have resources, they are more likely to become involved,” Gullekson said.
The contents of the kits were donated and included seeds, soil, simple gardening instructions and a limited number of containers. Students who are involved in the Environmental Sustainability Club, the Agronomy Club, Blue Key Honor Society, Student Association of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Horticulture Club and Real Food Challenge helped to assemble the kits and staff the booths.
Faculty members in the NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, professor Chiwon Lee and assistant professor Alan Zuk, also compiled the growing kit instructions and provided a facility for the kit assembly. “A variety of people were so generous and so willing to make this possible,” Gullekson said.
As most college students have limited space to garden, the GardensAlive movement is trying to help students start their own container gardens. “We know that there really isn’t much space for [college students] to garden in their own yard or apartments,” Gullekson said. “But if you’re growing those items on your own in a container, you will have more of an appreciation of those fresher options.”
To promote container gardening, GardensAlive began the Tri-College Container Garden Challenge, a contest that encourages students to submit photos of their creative and unique container gardens with the potential to win a prize based on originality and the number of “likes” or shares on Facebook and Twitter.
In addition to the Tri-College Container Garden Challenge, GardensAlive also began a One Million Square Feet Garden Challenge for the area. People in the F-M area are encouraged to start their own gardens and submit their garden information to the website to help GardensAlive reach their goal of one million square feet of growing fresh, local produce.
TWEET a picture of your container garden or post it to Facebook with the hashtag #fmgardensalive
LIKE the Cass Clay Healthy People Initiative Facebook Page: facebook.com/CassClayHealthyPeople
FOLLOW the CassClay Alive blog: cassclayalive.areavoices. com/2014/03/17/lets-bring-gardens-alive-in-fm-part-i
ENTER your garden information to help reach the One Million Square Feet Garden Challenge here: fmgardensalive.org