For years, Menominee elder Johnny Reiter had a large garden where he grew fresh fruits and vegetables. He planted and tended to his garden each season, and shared his fresh produce with friends and neighbors. Last year Johnny, a retired World War II veteran, had to move into a nursing home. This made him unable to plant a garden. His garden is a childhood memory for many people on the reservation and the community really missed seeing him take care of the colorful fruits and vegetables.
The Torch Club of the Woodland Boys & Girls Club in Neopit, WI decided to do something about it! In June, program coordinator Dana Warrington and 10 youth helped Johnny plant his garden once again. They took on the responsibility for planting, weeding, and watering. The group planted rows of cauliflower, carrots, corn, tomatoes, bush beans, butternut squash, zucchini, cabbage, turnips, rutabaga, cucumbers, and amaranth. Johnny taught youth how far apart to plant seeds and how to weed around plants so as to absorb maximum nutrients.
Every Tuesday, the group picks Johnny up at the nursing home to spend a few hours working in the garden. The kids race over to the garden to see how much the vegetables have grown. Mr. Warrington says this project is a great way to connect youth to the earth and help them understand where their food comes from. He has also taken youth to pick strawberries at a local farm. Warrington taught the Torch Club members to make jam from the berries. The Club is looking forward to making healthy snacks with the harvest from the garden and strawberry fields to share with Johnny and the other residents at the nursing home. The recipe below can be made using vegetables from Johnny's garden or any vegetables in a garden near you!