There is much hunger in the world, and a thought began to grow that we at RCS could make a difference at our corporate office here in Lake Elmo, MN. This passionate gardener knew our employees would be willing to help the community's neediest residents if only they had the means. In this case, that meant a garden. CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY.

For Volunteer Questions, Contact: Joni Fletty 651.704.1750

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Plowing Day

Neil Krueger from Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm!
There is something absolutely energizing about seeing the dark, rich earth uncovered in a spring plowing. Neil Krueger from Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm came over today and unearthed this beautiful soil!  We, in turn, every November, go down the road to their farm and help unload Christmas trees.  It is a partnership that has developed great friendships with like minded people.

They will be back twice more to till the soil.  Soon it will be filled with the color of plants and veggies, and the laughter of youth learning in this Teaching Giving Garden.

"Thank you" so much Deb and Neil Krueger for your generous time, talents, partnership with this garden and your friendship with our staff!

Joni Fletty - contributing writer


New Snow, Greenhouses, Seeds and Hope!

RCS Teaching Giving Garden Greenhouse  (Click to enlarge)
We had a new snow fall today!  Our greenhouse is covered, but it won't be long until those seed's of hope are planted and the youth return to the garden to learn where their food comes from!

We received an email from Julie Froslan Ferralez, Food Shelf Manager at Valley Outreach food shelf, where all of our produce is donated.  She said:

"As winter, theoretically, comes to an end, my attention has now been turned to garden produce and the Retail Construction Giving Garden was our top donor last year! Your support is so crucial in Valley Outreach’s efforts to bring fresh produce to our clients."

We are so excited for the greenhouse to shed its new winter coat, for what the new year brings, increasing our produce donation, and hearing the laughter of children back in the garden!

Audrey Hepburn said "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow"  - I'd like to add to that;  "To plant a Teaching Giving Garden is to believe in the youth of tomorrow!"

- Contributing writer - Joni Fletty


A.J. Moses, Beekeeper, Feeding the Teaching Giving Garden Bees!

Bee covered A.J. Moses!
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
A.J. Moses stopped out on Saturday and again today to feed the bees. Today he was going to add a few frames of honey for them to use as food, but there was plenty of honey in the hive!  This past Saturday, he stopped by and put a Pollen Patty inside the hive for the bees to feed on.  Here is what A.J. wrote:

"Bees have a great gift for storing food to get themselves through  the winter.  Mostly, they store a surplus of honey late in the season, using empty brood cells in the comb for food storage.  They also store pollen, but often not enough to ensure adequate supplies for that time before trees and flowers start blooming.  They also need temperatures high enough for foraging.

So we can feed a pollen patty to ensure they don't run short.  Like with our bodies, Bees require both carbohydrates - honey, and protein - pollen. 

In late February or early March the queen starts laying eggs for the coming season.  Worker bees tasked with feeding the larvae must have adequate supplies of pollen.  Pollen triggers their instinct to tend and feed said larvae. 

One note - honey bees typically prefer pollen they've stored, but most experienced beekeepers realize adding a pollen patty in early spring is an important safety net.

 - A.J. Moses - Beekeeper 

Thank you A.J. for all that you do for the bees at the RCS Teaching Giving Garden!
- contributing writer, Joni Fletty


RCS Giving Garden Memories 2009-2014

While we look forward to the upcoming 2015 growing season, here are some RCS Giving Garden Memories 2009-2014!


- contributing writer, Joni Fletty


2015 Schoolyard Gardens Conference at the MN Arboretum

Looking forward to the 2015 Schoolyard Gardens Conference at the MN Arboretum this  Friday and Saturday, February 27th & 28th with two of our Washington County Master Gardeners, Kathy and Liz! This will be an amazing learning and sharing opportunity!

For more information, visit:

The RCS Teaching Giving Garden will have two posters on display to highlight some of the lessons that we have giving at our garden over the years.

You can click on each of the posters below to enlarge the view our Lessons in our Garden!
- contributing writer, Joni Fletty


Our Garden Sleeps

As 2014 ended just shy of 15,000 lbs of produce donated to the food shelf, we are already thinking ahead to the 2015 season!  We have our greenhouse that was donated by the Lakeview Foundation that will be put to use, we have our increased group of youth coming to the garden to learn from seed to donation, and, we will have our new strawberry raised beds.  So much to look forward to!  While right now, white is nice, soon this garden will be bursting with color and community!

- contributing writer, Joni Fletty


UPS Employees Brave a Very Wet Morning Harvest!

Click any photo to enlarge

Photo bomber!  Missed the action leap!

A "very" soggy garden!


Johnson McCann

Click on any photo to enlarge
Today was a beautiful sunny day in the RCS Teaching Giving Garden.  Johnson McCann employees spent time harvesting the produce that was ready to be brought to the food shelf.  They also spent time dismantling the garden structures that are ready to store for the winter.  This is a great group of women that care very much about people helping people.  

Volunteers are the glue that holds a community together.  Knowing that you are helping to bring much needed food to those in need is to contribute your goodness and works to humanity unselfishly, without seeking any reward.  Some of the richest people in the world are not millionaires, they are volunteers.

- Joy Grognet, RCS


It's winding down!

It's winding down!

Fall is here and the garden has done its job and provided a bountiful harvest!  The eggplant, beans, corn, etc. are gone but those powerhouse tomatoes are still going strong!  Anissa and I harvested boxes of them...Beam's Yellow Pear, Green Zebra, Power's Yellow Heirloom, Amish Paste and Redfield Beauty, just to name a few.  We managed to find a few more zucchini, cucumber, raspberries, peppers, cabbage and rutabaga as well.  Our grand total harvest weight for the day was 53 lbs!  Thanks for your help today, Anissa! 

We were amazed by the activity of the squash bugs basking themselves in the sunshine while using their sucking mouthparts to feed on the squash vines and leaves!  Good thing our squash crop is nearly finished for this year!  Here is a link to information about these insects and what to do if you have an infestation in your garden next year.

- Kathy Luoma, WCMG


Honey Donation to the Food Shelf!

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Thank you to A.J. Moses, our bee keeper!  It is because of your generosity in not only placing bee hives at the Teaching Giving Garden, but maintaining, and processing - that today, we were able to donate 42 pounds of honey to the food shelf!  Valley Outreach was thrilled to receive this for their patrons!

They were going to post a story on their facebook page. Please watch for that at:

And this link for the full Facebook page for Valley Outreach!

Here is the email we received from Kateri Routh - Director of Operations at Valley Outreach:

"I loved reading through some posts and am astounded with how much produce has come from the garden since 2009. This is a pretty incredible way to give back to the community, and from all of us at Valley Outreach, thank you!

Kateri Routh - Director of Operations

651.430.2739 Office Line
651.342.5553 Direct Line

Helping Our Neighbors In Need of Food, Clothing and Emergency Financial Assistance.

For more information on honey, its benefits and interesting facts, check out this link to the University of MN Extension!

“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

Thank you A.J. for all that you do!
- Joni Fletty - RCS


PowerUp Returns to the Teaching Giving Garden!

Click any photo to enlarge!

What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping

Courtney, a Pre-Kindergarden teacher with "Time for Me Early Learning Center, sent the following email after their kids visit to the garden:

"I linked an article I found posted to a friends Facebook page, her caption stating simply 'great read.' So of course, I clicked it. It's very eye opening how everything is broken down. It makes me even more grateful for the wonderful work you do at the Giving Garden and that we get to be apart of it."

Thank you Courtney for sharing this link and your thoughts, and now we can share that with our followers.

Please click on the photo to read the full article:


Willis of Minnesota Returns to the Giving Garden

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Several of Willis employees enjoyed spending time in the RCS Giving Garden today.  Stories were shared of other gardens they had worked in, favorite recipes and the urge to beat the food poundage records of other companies. 

It was great to be out doors, share education and watch the scale go up with each weighing.  

Willis of Minnesota's team still holds the daily harvest record of 402 pounds, set in 2012.  This energetic team returned to the garden today and harvested 155.15 pounds of produce.

Thank you Willis of Minnesota for all or your volunteer time!
- Joy Grognet - RCS

And Debbie from Willis shared this that they had sent out to their staff:

I want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to those who participated in the Giving Garden harvest at Retail Construction Services this morning. Those who braved the wind and chilly weather were:

Sheila McMath
Kelly Coutier
Shannon Warner
Nikki Henderson
Megan Monette
Michelle Sylvester
Heather Goedtel
John Primozich
Dan Tolman
Debbie Rentz

We picked over 155 pounds of vegetables – tomatoes, corn, beans, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, edamame, radicchio, lettuce, raspberries, green peppers, yellow peppers, hot peppers, etc.…….and we only saw one live mouse and a few beetles, spiders and various other creepy crawly creatures. We didn’t break our record from a couple of years ago but we still had a good harvest – and a good time together!  Plus we got to deliver the harvest to the Valley Outreach food shelf.

I’ve attached the brochure that they have on their reception desk – they have listed all of the organizations that have partnered with them and Willis is listed too!

The link to their website is  They will be posting our photos and doing a little write up about us so stay tuned for further information!
Again, Thank YOU for supporting one of our clients and helping the community!! Willis Associates ROCK!!!!

Debbie Rentz

And Debbie added  "I know that everyone had a great time and felt like they were part of something very important!"


Angels in the Teaching Giving Garden

We had angels arrive at our office in the form of Washington County Master Gardeners.  Not only were they here the Friday before Labor Day weekend to harvest produce AND weeds, but they came again today for a repeat performance.

The unexpected surprise was the flowers, bagels, cream cheese and card they brought for our staff.

"I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives." 
~Tracy Chapman

The compassion each of you has shown not only toward the hundreds of youth who have had lessons in this garden, but the care and compassion you show with your volunteering in the garden - knowing full well the people that this food impacts - is an inspiration for us all.  Your work hasn't gone unnoticed.

Thank you for all that you do Washington County Master Gardeners for all that you contribute to this Teaching Giving Garden.

You are the fertilizer when the soil is not fruitful and the strength when the weeds threaten domination.

From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you from the entire staff at Retail Construction Services, Inc.

- Contributing Writer, Joni Fletty   


Friday in the Garden

Five master gardeners gathered in the Giving Garden on the Friday before Labor Dayto harvest and weed.  It was fun for all of us to work side by side with other experienced gardeners, share stories of our gardens and admire the beautiful  produce.

Cucumbers, zucchini, buttercup squash, eggplant, green and purple beans, peppers, tomatoes................this time of year is the gardener's reward for the time and energy spent tending the garden through the season.   Together we picked 176.1 pounds of produce.

Comments such as "Ah, look what I found!" got the attention of us all as we shook our heads at  a beautiful squash that had been gnawed on by some veggie hungry wildlife - likely a raccoon.  A "conjoined" cucumber.  (see photo).   Petite brussel spouts growing on the plants central stalk.

I wonder what we will find when we meet back in the garden on Tuesday after Labor Day?!

- Deb Lynch


Evening Honey Harvest with AJ Moses

Click any photo to enlarge!
Remember those beehives that were added to the RCS property last spring?  We have enjoyed watching those honeybees working hard collecting nectar and pollinating our garden all summer, and on an August evening we were invited back to watch Master Gardener and beekeeper AJ Moses harvest the honey produced by those wonderful little bees! 

Safe behind the office window!
We kept our distance watching from an inside window
while AJ suited up and used a technique to move the bees to a lower part of the hive by using a very smelly covering. The bees thought the odor unpleasant, too!  Then he pulled a frame to show us where the honey is stored.  Once the bees moved on to another area of the hive, he brought us the frame to inspect!  We used little bamboo sticks to carefully remove the outer
beeswax covering on a few of the hexagon-shaped holes and then let the honey drip onto our stick and then onto a cracker or just directly into our mouths!  Sweet goodness!

The remainder of the honey will be donated to Valley Outreach so other families will have an opportunity to try this natural treat.  Thanks, AJ!  And, thank you, honeybees!

- Kathy Luoma, Washington County Master Gardener


Garden Donations Reach Just Over 14,000 lbs!

Through this week, our garden has donated 14,004.3 lbs of food to the food shelf since 2009!