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Two Harbors Food Shelf plans to grow its own

Rose Kiekhafer and Phil Arnold stand where they hope garden plants will thrive in the near future next to the building that houses the Two Harbors Food Shelf. (Sonja Peterson / News-Chronicle)

Ever since Phil Arnold began talking to community members about creating a garden for the Two Harbors Food Shelf last December, he's been taken by the response.

"I've actually been having trouble keeping up with the enthusiasm," Arnold said. He's the director of the food shelf.

He credits the original idea to Deade Johnson, a long-time volunteer for the food shelf.

"The idea of having a garden had been there for a while but it never quite got off the ground," he said.

They did a survey of the food shelf's customers, asking whether they would be interested in maintaining plots to grow food to either donate to the food shelf or specifically to feed their own families. Customers responded positively to both ideas and Arnold envisions the garden as combining the two.

"We're really trying to emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables," Arnold said.

Though the food shelf receives some fresh produce from places like the Super One grocery store, the garden would help supplement the supply, Arnold said. The food shelf plans to work with Betty Wistrom of the Lake County Extension Office on nutritional education.

The food shelf got permission from the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency to build the garden in empty green space outside its Two Harbors building where the food shelf is based.

Lake County employees offered to bring in black dirt and level the site to ensure good drainage.

Jan O'Donnell, a food shelf volunteer, secured grants from Cooperative Light & Power and the Labounty Family Fund of the Two Harbors Area Fund (an affiliate of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation). The North Shore Good Neighbors group has been helping with volunteer coordination.

They've also been working with Maple Ridge Landscape, Anderson's Greenhouse, Greg Hull, Tom Koehler and Mickey McGilligan.

"We're trained to keep the money we receive in the community," Arnold said.

They plan to have up to 40 raised beds in the garden. Planting will beging this week.

Arnold said any gardeners can contribute by planting a row or two in their own gardens to donate.

The Two Harbors Food Shelf helps feeds 90 to 110 families per month. It is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday.