Gardening for the Community

During spring work days at Des Moines’ two community gardens, dreams of 3-pound heirloom tomatoes, gourmet salad greens, shishito peppers and other exotic vegetable varieties are planted for gardeners to enjoy. And thanks to a budding volunteer program, extra just-picked produce is going to neighbors facing food insecurity. Last year, growers donated more than 910 pounds of produce. 

Operated through Des Moines Parks and Recreation, the 209 garden plots in the two community gardens (Franklin Avenue and Woodland Park) are available for residents to rent for $30 for the season. That includes 150 square feet of growing space plus compost, mulch, and water and tool access. Part of the agreement is a volunteer requirement, including coordinating food donations, assisting other gardeners and maintaining communal spaces such as a pollinator garden. 

Eva Button, an Iowa State University sophomore studying horticulture, is planning to grow more this year in her Franklin community garden plot to help feed her neighbors through the donation program. She and her mother, another gardener at Franklin, started growing extra seeds in March to boost their harvest with the intention of giving. They also plan to share extra seed starts with fellow Franklin gardeners in hopes of more shared success. 

Cassandra Monroe, a coordinator with the food rescue program last year, is another college student with the gardening bug. Last year the Grandview University student delivered batches of produce such as squash, tomatoes and more to SweetTooth Community Fridge at 1618 Sixth Ave. 

Some of the plots in the city’s community gardens are reserved for refugees. “Our program strives to be culturally inclusive,” says Callie Le’au Courtright with Des Moines Parks and Recreation. “Through a partnership with Lutheran Services in Iowa, we support gardeners from communities around the world who have resettled in the Des Moines metro.” 

To learn more about Des Moines’ program, email or call 515.248.6383.

More Ways to Garden for Good

The nonprofit organization Eat Greater Des Moines has a community garden support program. To learn more and to find a useful start-up guide on community gardening, call 515.207.8908 or visit 

Iowa Gardening for Good, located on a farm near Madrid, Iowa, grows around 150,000 pounds of vegetables annually that they donate to Iowa food banks and pantries. Volunteer opportunities include planting, harvesting and delivering produce. More info: 

Lutheran Services in Iowa’s Global Greens program provides refugees with garden plots to grow culturally appropriate food not only to feed their families but also to sell through farmers markets and a Community Supported Agriculture program. Learn more about how you can support the program and the refugee farmers at

Iowa Stops Hunger is an ongoing Business Publications Corp. initiative to raise awareness of food insecurity in Iowa and inspire action to combat it. Click here to learn more.

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