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History of RSG


How It All Began


The stories of how Rice Street Gardens began and the ways it has operated are very interesting and instructive. Galilee Lutheran Church (Galilee) had considered the idea of creating a community garden on its own land, and was frightened when over fifty families showed up, looking for a plot, at an evening meeting that hadn’t even been advertised. There clearly was a need for gardens in the area. Galilee, located across Rice Street from the current RSG, quickly backed off from taking full responsibility. We also didn’t really have enough land to deal with the demand. 


In 2015, Katheryn Schneider, a local activist, asked for a meeting with Galilee’s pastor Dana Nelson and others, including Ron Peterson. She had learned that a large area across Rice Street had been purchased by the Saint Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) and suggested that we ask them if we could set up a community garden. Galilee agreed to try, and so began a project that absolutely none of us had any idea how to carry out. 

We put out a call for local support and an early meeting included: Karen Organization of MN (KOM), Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, Gardening Matters, Lake McCarrons Neighborhood Association (Sherry Sanders), Arrive Ministries, International Institute of MN, CAPI, Roseville Schools, and others. While dozens of individuals helped out during the following nine months, leadership soon boiled down to three people—Katheryn Schneider, Ron Peterson, and Sherry Sanders. The three began meeting almost every Monday morning at 9:30 am at Galilee. 

Convincing various organizations was the first task. Everyone loved the idea of the community garden, but all had to be asked for their approval. Two of the early challenges were:

  • We had to convince the SPRWS to let us use the land that they had purchased for $2.5 million a couple years earlier. We first talked to their engineer (Brent Marsolek) and director (Steve Schneider), who seemed interested. They had no immediate plans to use the land and soon set up a meeting with the SPRWS Board of Directors. The board gave their approval with only one proviso—don’t set up any visible protests if they had to take the garden land back one day. Amazingly, a lawyer for SPRWS wrote a contract for us to use the land for one year for free, with the option to renew annually. The agreement had some requirements, such as keeping the grass mowed, and removing the plants and fences at the end of the growing year.

  • Our second challenge was with the City of Maplewood, where the gardens were to be located. They had zoned the area as commercial/business property and had no zoning for community gardens. (The City of Maplewood now does have zoning for community gardens based on our experience). So right away we had to decide if we would apply for a conditional use permit, which would cost about $2,000. We had no budget at that point, but with a gift we took the chance to proceed. It took until March of 2016 to get final approval. We needed to give presentations to the Environmental and Natural Resources Commission, the Planning Commission, and finally two talks to the City Council. We somehow skirted their requirement to put in a paved parking area in front, which would have been unaffordable. We also gave a courtesy presentation to the Roseville City Council. 


Proceeding with garden planning and activities began before we had final approvals, and there was much to be done. It was a wonderful, scary time:

  • We asked the water department to fill a deep gaping hole near the center of the open garden area. They filled it mostly with gravel, so it became our future shed area, which we bought on the cheap for about $800.

  • We checked the soil (U of M) at many places and found there were no dangerous materials, although it was short on nitrogen. 

  • We decided that each plot should be 16’ by 20’ and over 500 metal stake posts were laid out in a grid with walking paths and two driving paths. We carefully followed Maplewood’s rules for protecting the nearby pond and wetlands. The south area, with eight foot tall burdock stands, was cleared. Everyone was covered with burrs as a result.

  • We asked the adjacent McCarron's Pub and Grill if we could use their well water for the gardens.  They said yes and signed an agreement. But it could not happen until they got hooked up to city water.  They had hired a plumber that took their money but didn’t finish the job.  We helped the pub find and pay for an excellent plumber who was able to connect the pub to the city water, so then we had full use of their well. Before using the pub water supply, we used 1,500 feet of hoses and a fire hydrant for water. We had talked to other community garden people about how to supply water, and they had strongly recommended that we install underground lines to prevent freezing. After toying with the idea of installing water lines and spigots ourselves, we received another gift and purchased an irrigation system from Albrecht Enterprises for about $7,000. We got a deal to buy eight 350-gallon water tanks from Wisconsin, which we placed near each of the water spigots as a backup water supply for the gardeners. 

  • In March we held three meetings, one in English, one in Karen, and one in Nepali where Galilee was overflowing with potential gardeners. We presented gardening rules we had devised and collected a $20 fee for each plot. Potential gardeners were sent to us by various organizations and we used a first-come first-served system. Plots were distributed in a way that kept ethnic groups together, but adjacent to other groups to foster new relationships. There were about 250 gardeners that first year.

  • Gardeners helped build an 1100 foot plastic fence around the gardens to discourage deer. It really didn’t work well. But, it was an amazing first season. Here are some photos from that first year.

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