Community garden in early planning stages as organization efforts begin

To David Barton, Clinical Educator at North Big Horn Hospital, a field of weeds near Rose City West could someday be a field of dreams for the citizens of Lovell if he can find the backing and support to make it into a community garden.

Barton presented his initial concept for establishing a community garden to the NBHH board of trustees on Tuesday, July 21, hoping to eventually have the district sponsor the project.

Barton envisions the project supported entirely through a partnership of local businesses, civic organizations, churches and community members, without any support from outside interests in the form of grants or tax-based funding.

Barton said he’s hoping to enlist the support of the town to help till and prepare a space that he said will be maintained by individual community members, civic organizations, church and other groups. He said he hopes the garden will eventually yield enough to not only provide nutritious fresh produce to those participating, but to also provide fresh food to those in need. He anticipates that food will be made available through “free produce stands,” food banks and other charitable means.

N1503P29002C“What I’m looking at right now is a half acre of weeds,” explained Barton. “The site itself is adjacent to Rose City West and the Senior Center and is owned by Rose City West. We’re eyeing this property, hoping we can work with the board of Rose City West on an agreement to use it.”

One obvious hurdle is liability to the hospital and property owner. Barton said he is looking into whether a rider to existing insurance policies and waivers signed by participants can help eliminate that hurdle.

“People who participate, whether it’s pulling weeds, planting seeds or what have you, will sign an agreement and part of that agreement will say, ‘Yes, we know we are doing physical labor, we’re working with tools and if we hurt ourselves, we’re not going to hold you liable.’”

Barton said he plans to reach out informally to people and organizations in the community over the next several weeks to see how much interest there is in the project and will be reporting that information at the next hospital board meeting.

“Once I made my board presentation and they said it was OK for me to find out if there is interest in doing this, I started reaching out to individuals and groups to see if they would be willing to participate. That will tell us if, in fact, we’re able to get this going,” said Barton.

So far, he said response has been positive and he hopes to have a more fleshed out plan before the next hospital board meeting on August 18. He said he also plans to present his idea to the Town of Lovell at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 11.

“I’ve just started getting the idea out there and so far the response has  been almost universally positive,” said Barton. “With this we’re looking at  a community garden for Lovell. The idea is that the community supports it and we don’t go to Cheyenne or Washington or any place else looking for money to do it.  It’s important for this to succeed because the community is really behind it and actively participating in it.”

Barton said he thinks the project fits in with the hospital district’s mission to educate the public about good nutrition.

“North Big Horn Hospital serves the community, which includes Lovell, Byron, Cowley and the surrounding areas,” explained Barton. “We serve those who come to us with health care needs but also by helping them improve their health. Part of that is our community outreach that was defined back in 2012, which specified helping people make better food choices and other healthy lifestyle changes. This fits right in with that.

“Our community self-improvement plan specifically calls for outcomes of more healthy and active lifestyles and reducing adult obesity. The idea is to have one large garden for the community, with half of what comes out of the garden going back to the community, free of charge to those in need. The other half will go to those who participate.”

Barton noted that the area is large enough to run educational events on site or at nearby facilities like the North Big Horn Senior Center.

“I think this fits right in with our mission at the hospital and I think it is something good for the community,” he said.

By Patti Carpenter