Bonners Ferry, Idaho has become the largest community of Little Free Gardens outside Fargo-Moorhead, the birthplace of the Little Free Garden project. Now home to 21 Little Free Gardens, the gardens in Bonners Ferry are thriving and taking root in this community thanks to a group of people committed to growing good food and caring for their neighbors.
We interviewed Kate Painter, Agriculture Extension Educator with University of Idaho Extension in Boundary County about their community, the Little Free Garden project, and what they hope for the future of their gardens.
LFG: Can you tell us a little about yourself and the GROW! Community Gardens?
Kate: I am an Agricultural Extension Educator for the University of Idaho in Boundary County, Idaho. I am responsible for the Master Gardener program, as well as supporting small farms and commercial agriculture here. I am president of a nonprofit organization, Gardeners for Regional Organic Wellbeing, whose mission is to help support and expand the local food system and encourage sustainable agricultural methods in our county. We have a community garden located on the grounds of a local church where we rent out garden plots, grow organic produce for the community, and teach gardening methods. We struggle to involve volunteers to help us maintain the garden, which includes a perennial herb garden maintained by the local Master Gardeners group. We thought if we could take little gardens out to visible sites in the community, we could increase awareness of what we do. I thought, we could be like the Little Free Libraries. Then, I found out that I was not the first to have this idea and, in fact, there was already a Little Free Garden movement in the country!
LFG: That’s awesome! We love seeing our project idea spread to other places in the country. Why do you think the Little Free Garden project is valuable? What do you hope it will bring to your community gardening program, as well as community as a whole?
Kate: I am hoping that we will be able to show people that it's quite easy and fun to grow your own food, and encourage participation in our gardening classes here at UI Extension. We also hope to teach children how their food grows, and how tasty fresh garden produce can be.
LFG: What businesses have been willing to sponsor/tend a garden? What has been the interestor motivation to be involved from these businesses?
Kate: We have had great support from the community, from businesses that jump in and create their own LFG using their own containers, soil, plants, and seed, to businesses that donate seedlings for other LFGs in addition to their own. We now have over 20 little free gardens here in Boundary County.
Our Boundary County project was funded by a $2500 grant from the City of Bonners Ferry through their High Five! project, which is sponsored by Blue Cross of Idaho's Foundation for Health. High Five! works with communities to promote healthy eating and physical activity for Idaho’s children. They simply asked that we focus on growing food, as opposed to ornamentals.
LFG: So great that you have such wonderful community support. What’s growing in your gardens this season - specifically the Little Free Gardens?
Kate: We have tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, pepper plants, peas, basil, stevia, edible flowers, all kinds of herbs, some edible flowers, and pole beans. We are in the process of replacing some of the earlier lettuce plants with short season carrots, beets, peas, kale, and fall lettuce. Many people don’t know about succession planting for fall crops.
LFG: That’s great advice. Finally, what do you hope for the future of GROW!, and your Little Free Gardens?
Kate: I hope more people in our community will become interested in growing their own food, and eating more locally grown produce. I hope our children will become interested in the magic of gardening and learn to love fresh garden produce. I also hope that we will be able to get more volunteers involved with GROW!, so we can continue to expand our impact in the community.
We’re so excited to see our Little Free Garden project grow and take root in Bonners Ferry. Learn more about GROW! Community Gardens and their Little Free Gardens on their Facebook Page.