Central Iowa 4-H Club establishes community garden

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The newly established Gutekunst Grows Community Garden, situated on the grounds of the Gutekunst Public Library, is an initiative of the Central Iowa 4-H Club. Pictured are Sienna, Elizabeth and Aubrey Edler caring for the garden.

STATE CENTER — The newly established Gutekunst Grows Community Garden, situated on the grounds of the Gutekunst Public Library, is an initiative of the Central Iowa 4-H Club. Chock-full of peppers, tomatoes and Swiss chard, the garden is aimed at teaching 4-H students about cultivating produce, and giving folks the chance to enjoy the bounty.

The concept is the brainchild of Samantha Gerke, 18, a senior at West Marshall High School. Last winter, she approached her local 4-H club about forming a garden at the library.

“I was talking with Mara Edler (the library’s director) and she mentioned that she always wanted to have a community garden, and then I thought it would be a great way to get the 4-H group involved in our community. I proposed it at a meeting and then they passed it,” Gerke said.

Gerke applied for and received a $190 grant from DuPont Pioneer, while 4-H leader Jeanne Wiley got in touch with the Central Iowa Fair Board, and secured a $150 grant.

“She and her family built the garden beds and my family and hers planted the garden in late June,” Wiley said.

The two raised beds each measure 4×8 feet in size. They are maintained by 4-H members and volunteers from the community.

Gerke has taken an interest in community hunger, and also operates a Little Free Pantry, located at St. Paul Lutheran Church in State Center.

“This teaches the kids how to provide for other people and it’s great for the community,” Wiley said.

Gerke said this initiative is eligible to be entered next year as a citizenship project at the Central Iowa Fair.

Edler said that while the garden was planted late in the season, it is in its prime.

“We wanted to get it established and make people aware of it,” she said. “We’re hoping for pumpkins in time for Halloween, but we’re not entirely sure we’re going to get some.”

Since the garden is open to the public, folks are welcome to pick some of the produce for personal use.

“We advertise it as the food is available to anybody that wants to take it, and excess will be distributed at the library and the Christian Community Cupboard at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church,” Edler said. “Next year, we’re hoping to have some educational classes (at the garden).”

For updates, join the Facebook group Central Iowa 4-H.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com