Community Gardens handles theft issue
For the Rapids City Times
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The sixth growing season at the Growing Friends Community Gardens, located on the corner of Hill Street and Spruce Avenue, is winding down. With a bumper crop of fresh produce from all the gardeners’ beds and approximately 700 pounds of fruit and vegetables grown by the garden’s food pantry team and donated to South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf (SWEPS).
Though organizers have been pleased with the garden’s success, Garden Coordinator Karen Houdek said theft has been an issue this season.
“We have had the occasional vegetable theft in years past,” she said. “We are an open garden, so some theft, while disappointing, is expected. But, this year whole crops were stolen from the gardeners’ plots, and the stealing continued throughout the season. One of our gardeners had a great watermelon plot, but every one of the melons was stolen.”
As a result, the gardens now sport security cameras and signage.
“We realized as a public learning garden that encourages people to visit, a fence is impractical,” Houdek added. “We want people to stroll around the gardens, stop and read the signage and educational information in our demo beds and on our bulletin boards, check out the vegetables and flowers we grow, our composting methods, rain barrel system, etc. However, our gardeners pay for their plots and work hard for their produce. It’s not fair that they don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“Surveillance cameras give us the ability to monitor the space, while making sure we give the public access to take a stroll through the paths or sit at the tables and benches to just enjoy the view.”
Surveillance cameras also give the Community Gardens the ability to know when the thefts take place. The garden’s committee members feel this is an important feature.
Houdek explains, “If we find out the times people are stealing, we can give this specific information when we notify the police and they can check out the area more effectively.”
The Growing Friends Community Gardens has continually grown over the years. On land donated for use by Aspirus Riverview Hospital, it now has 72 garden plots, a rhubarb bed, herb beds, Master Gardener demonstration beds, a fairy garden bed for children to view, a small apple orchard, an extensive composting system, pollinator/butterfly beds, and seven food pantry beds dedicated to providing fresh produce for SWEPS .
For more information on garden beds, email [email protected].