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University of Minnesota Extension

Community gardening for health brings much needed social interaction during the pandemic

University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed educator Milena Nunez Garcia has been busy in the garden this year. Although COVID-19 has brought changes to the delivery of many Extension activities, gardening as an outdoor activity can be done in-person with the proper safety protocols. Nunez Garcia, who is based in Olmsted County, and her gardening team have been going strong planning, planting, tending and harvesting their Back to Eden Garden since the beginning of March.

Back to Eden garden in Rochester, MN
Back to Eden garden, Rochester, MN.

With the help of a mini-grant from Olmsted County Public Health Services SHIP program, Nunez Garcia purchased all the tools and personal protective equipment necessary to follow the new safety protocols. Equipment included  hand sanitizer, paper towel holder, signage, a portable hand-washing station and a safe water storage tank (275 gallons).

While in the garden, families learned how to plant and then reaped the benefits of growing their own

Milena Nunez Garcia preparing a garden bed
Milena Nunez Garcia, U of M Extension SNAP-Ed educator in Olmstead County

food. Gardeners were exposed to new foods while also getting outdoors for physical activity, something we know has been very important during the pandemic. To keep social interaction alive while still social distancing, Nunez Garcia administered a Facebook group page for gardeners to discuss their gardening experiences and share information.

She says, “This gardening program has always been popular, but more families signed-up this year.” Maybe this is because social interaction during the pandemic is a scarce commodity, gardening brings people together while maintaining safety.

For more information about the Back to Eden Garden in Rochester, Minn., contact Milena Nunez Garcia at mnunezga@umn.edu.

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