Green Bay and its residents have been working on their green thumbs, and Green Bay has been getting into the swing of sustainability as spring is upon us.
New Leaf Foods has been leading the charge towards fostering sustainability in Green Bay, particularly through one of their most current events: the 10th annual Garden Blitz. From May 5th through 7th, the nonprofit will be delivering 54 garden beds (sized 8ft. by 4ft. with 10 inches tall) and 5 larger beds to the individuals who purchased them, along with soil, seeds, and a small compost from the partnership of Green Bay Compost. According to Samantha Daggett, communication coordinator assistant of New Leaf Foods, the “whole goal of Garden Blitz is to help people who might not have food access and to help with teaching kids where their food is grown.” On top of this, New Leaf Foods “…gives 30 boxes away for free.” Some of the recipients of the donated garden boxes are the Veterans Center and families of local schools.
Yet, this is only a small portion of what New Leaf Foods actually participates in. According to New Leaf Foods’ website, their mission statement is “promoting healthy food access and education and by cooperating throughout Northeast Wisconsin to build a thriving local food system in a clean environment.” They achieve this through various programming, including the Garden Blitz, the Urban Food Forest, the Brown County Seed Library, and Chef’s Table at the Market, as well as various talks and partnerships. The Urban Food Forest is putting trees and bushes in Seymour Park and an orchard in Chapel Church to promote food access there, according to Daggett. “… Green Bay is really coming to terms with [sustainability] and upping their game… It’s coming to be a really big thing, and Green Bay has started down the path to becoming more sustainable.” Daggett said. One big step in sustainability in the area is local companies and organizations taking a step in taking their part.
The Brown County Central Library hosts the Brown County Seed Library, a collaborative effort between New Leaf Foods and the Library. Sandy Kallunki, the central Library Manager, stated that the library staff had wanted to start a seed library previously but had not had the staffing or expertise to start one until New Leaf Foods Inc. had approached them. “Brown County Library staff recognize that gardening has long been very popular with county residents – historically, our collections of garden-related books have been among our most frequently borrowed materials,” Kallunki said. According to New Leaf Foods, it is a “curated collection of seeds – primarily edible plants – that are suited for success in our Northeastern Wisconsin growing region,” that is offered freely to people. Anyone who fills out a short form is accessible.
Some seeds that are offered by the seed library, according to The Seed Library website include, but are not limited to, basil, beans, broccoli, carrots, and peppers. There are many more options when it comes to the types of seeds available. Also, there are 39 different seed options, and even more when looking at the different variants of some of these plants and veggies. Their seed list is here or on their site. Their seed list says that they “are available on a first-come basis while supplies last,” and these seeds aren’t just available for the Garden Blitz. They are available to everyone. Though there is no shortage of seed according to Kallunki, the Seed Library has only launched in March and they have already given out over 3,000 seeds.
For those that are interested in taking advantage of these resources of seeds and other food sustainability resources but do not have the space for a raised garden bed, one could then take a look at the Brown County Community Gardens. Spanning 15 different locations, the Brown County Community offers food plots at differing sizes, with the average prices ranging from $10 to $45, depending on the garden plot size. “A lot of our gardens are situated on land that would otherwise just be vacant parcels. So, our gardens help utilize those parcels to help out the community.” Annie Schmitz, Community Garden Coordinator, said. There is, however, a scarcity of food plots due to the high usage of the food plots in the community. “We have a waitlist for most sites as a lot of our gardeners have been with us for many years….and heavily rely on their garden plots for most of their fresh produce intake for the year,” Schmitz said. There are current plans to expand into 17 different sites by 2024.
On top of this, the Community Gardens have been actively participating in different sustainability, garden-oriented programs, such as donating extra seeds to the Seed Library or the “Planting for a Purpose” program, “which encourages gardeners to donate excess produce to local food pantries,” according to Schmitz. “Anybody can participate, so if you have a garden in your backyard and want to give back to the community, this program aims to help generate more awareness that food pantries struggle to keep a steady supply of fresh produce for their participants.”
As spring fully enters into the season, there are increasing opportunities to develop and grow as a community and as an individual through sustainability. “I have already heard many stories about how someone’s garden is an escape for them or has helped them through a rough spot,” Schmitz said. For those that do not have the ability to develop a garden, there are other ways to become sustainable. “Being sustainable is a lot easier than you think. It’s very daunting at first because you see everyone with the very aesthetic glass tubber-ware… it’s a lot easier than that.” Developing into composting or reducing food waste, Daggett said, could really help with developing into sustainability.