Growing healthy food, sense of community
Group looks to garden to provide more than produce
By Eileen Persike
It was a meeting of the minds, a confluence of ideas and opportunity, a common love of growing, sharing and eating homegrown produce that has led to the development of the Northwoods Community Garden.
Pete Zambon said he and his friend Mike Haasl, gardener and founder of the Northwoods Homesteading Club, saw a need and desire in the area from people who wanted to grown their own food. One idea led to another and soon they took the idea of a community garden to Nicolet College, proposing the open field at Nicolet as the location. Construction is underway and by next spring 48 plots, each measuring 10-feet-by-20-feet will be available to the public to rent for about $40 per season.
“Eating healthy food, freshly grown, has a direct affect on who we are as people.” Pete Zambon, Northwoods Community Garden
Zambon, who has planted a garden to supply fresh food for his family’s restaurant at Holiday Acres, said he has always been a lover of food, having had the “privilege” of eating great and interesting foods prepared by his late mother, Kari. He learned gardening from his Master Gardener grandmother.
“Local food is a good thing. Period,” Zambon said. “Eating healthy food, freshly grown, has a direct affect on who we are as people. It’s an experience.”
His interest in becoming more involved in the community is one motivation for his involvement in the project. The other is the “pure and simple desire” to let others experience the joy and inspiration of gardening.
“Maybe they don’t have the space or the right conditions on their property,” Zambon said. “The new garden will give them the opportunity to experience the satisfaction of increased self-sufficiency by growing and harvesting their own abundance of healthy, natural food.”
Haasl is the newly formed Northwoods Community Garden board vice president, and Zambon is the organization’s president.
“Along with a place for people to grow food, we also envision it to being a teaching and learning garden,” said Mike Haasl, vice president of the Northwoods Community Garden and the garden manager. “We’ll be putting together a number of different classes and presentations about gardening itself and also expanding that into teaching aspects of permaculture.”
Modernfarmer.com describes permaculture as a “holistic, living-in-harmony-with-nature worldview, as well as a technical approach for how to do so.” Zambon adds that he sees permaculture as a “philosophy of how we, as humans, interact in the environment we live in.”
Classes will be offered through Nicolet College’s Outdoor Adventure program on subjects such as sustainable gardening, gardening infrastructure, and even ways to make your own backyard self-maintaining, among others.
This will be Rhinelander’s first community garden that will rent plots. The Rhinelander Area Community Garden is grown by food pantry volunteers and all the food grown goes to the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry.
Perhaps as much as giving people the opportunity to grow their own food, Zambon said it will provide a reason for community members to be together and share experiences.
“We need to seek out the things we can do that will bring us together,” he said. “Bringing people together around a common interest – there’s no negative to that.”
The garden has a number of community partners, including ArtStart, Nicolet College, UW-Extension-Oneida County, Rhinelander Kiwanis and Rotary, GFWC Rhinelander Woman’s Club, Jelinek Well Drilling, Musson Brothers, Hanson’s Garden Village, the city of Rhinelander and other private individuals. For more information about the project, visit the Northwoods Community Garden Facebook page or email [email protected].