THE GARDEN STORY

Here at Retail Construction Services, Inc., we are dedicated to giving back.

Give back not only to those in need within our community, but also the future generations of this wonderful community. What started out as a great idea has grown exponentially and has become an amazing reality. Here at the RCS Giving Garden, school groups, master gardeners, corporate volunteers, and our own employees work together for the common good of teaching children the art of gardening and the importance of healthy eating.
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LOCATION:

Retail Construction Services, Inc.

11343 39th Street N.

Lake Elmo, MN 55042


From HWY 36 - go south on Lake Elmo Ave, turn left onto 39th Street, garden is at corner of 39th and Laverne.


From HWY 5- going west from Stillwater take right onto Laverne (near Fury dealership) garden is on the right at corner of Laverne and 39th street.


The RCS Giving Garden

The RCS Giving Garden

12/1/13

2013 Garden Sleeps

Click to enlarge photo
Once again, our Giving Garden sleeps.  This was a tough year, full of many hurdles.  An extremely wet and cold spring, lots and lots of bugs, worms and critters, and a hot dry spell.  However, in the end, while our poundage was not that of 2011 or 2012, we were able to donate 1,854.6 lbs to the Valley Outreach Food Shelf.  And in the end, that is worth all of the hurdles we cleared!

Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers this year;  RCS Employees, the Rutherford Jr. Master Gardening program, all the local church groups, the Stillwater ALC High School students, and the SPIN kid program from Stillwater. 

An extra special shout out to the Master Gardeners that volunteered their time this year to teach lessons to the kids in the garden Monday, Wednesday and Friday's this summer.  What a gift to teach kids 'where their food comes from', and what special gift this is to give to the community.  We are truly grateful.

A great quote from Anon goes like this;
“A garden is to grow people”
We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all!

- Joni Fletty

10/22/13

St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center Students Return!

St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center Students at work
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
We have missed the St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center Students since they started their own garden last year.  So today was a joy to have them return.  Tom Wendt and Karla Mclaughlin brough out several students during both a morning visit and an afternoon visit. 

Here is a summary of the day from Tom Wendt:

"In the am we mainly just picked tomatoes. We harvested 270 pounds of tomatoes. We pulled up the planted and made a large pile of the vines at the end of one of the rows and also pulled the support stakes and put those in a pile as well.

In the pm we harvested squash (summer and winter), some eggplants, tomatios (sp), and picked dry beans for the seeds. we pulled up the corn and squash plants and made piles of those as well and pulling support stakes. Then we ate some raspberries which were still very good. I will send you the wieght sheet for the pm because Karla took that to add up the different amounts.
 

We went to Valley Outreach after the pm session and donated what they would take. I had Kelci come out to the bus and look first because I didn't know if they could use or would want  all the green tomatoes. She felt they couldn't use that many.

I will get the pm totals and the Valley Outreach receipt from Karla some time today. The students aren't ready for winter. But they worked hard, even with snowflakes in the air.

It was good to be back over to the Giving Garden again!"

And from Karla:

"We are SO glad to help out! Between your garden and our school garden we have harvested a lot of food to help people in need.  It REALLY is a great feeling to know working together we have all made a difference in the community.   Thanks for the creative idea and the motivation to get our garden started."
Some of the tomatoes that were still green were taken back to the high school.  They were going to do different ripening experiments!

Thanks again St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center for your work on such a COLD day!  We look forward to partnering with you this next year!

- Contributing Writer - Joni Fletty

9/23/13

UPS Team Breaks Daily Harvest Total for 2013!

UPS Team L to R:  Mario Linarte, Jason Briggs, Christina Paquette, Tony Fisher, Traci Poulsen,
Sherri Montgomery, Kris Horton and Lynne Barten
CLICK ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE
There are those volunteer groups; whose smiling faces and hard work can just make a perfect day in the garden even more perfect…  This was that day when our group of UPS volunteers joined us this morning.

Not only that, but this group broke the 2013 daily picking record of 187.4 lbs of produce!!

We harvested purple beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, kale, kohlrabi, peppers, pok choi, squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips and zucchini.   The largest crop of the day was the corn and popcorn.

After the harvest, the UPS Team took the produce over to Valley Outreach Food Shelf.  They were able to take a tour of the facilities.  Not only the food shelf, but Dawn’s Clothes Closet, the teaching kitchen and the resources set up for families in need.  Truly, a full circle volunteer experience.

In coordinating this visit with UPS, I noticed that at the bottom of Lynne’s email is this UPS quote: 

“Our Promise: In every connection we make, go further, so our customers can do more!”

Whatever your passion, however you get involved, volunteering offers a way to have a real and lasting impact on your community.  The woman and men from this UPS Team are not just the people behind the brown trucks.  They are ‘connected’, in a way that not only helps their customers do more, moreover, they help their community do more – and this customer truly appreciates each and every one of them!
 

Thank you Mario, Jason, Christina, Tony, Traci, Sherri, Kris and Lynne!

- Contributing writer - Joni Fletty

9/20/13

11,000.7 lbs! A New Record Set!


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Today, three employees from RCS hit a new record while harvesting in the garden!  Since our first donation on July 22nd, 2009 of 4 lbs of produce, the RCS Giving Garden has donated 11,000.7 lbs of food to the food shelves!

Each year this garden expands not only its heirloom roots, but the variety of ethnic foods produced. 

"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Food not only meets a very basic need, it also bridges cultural gaps, sparks conversation, and nourishes the soul.  With the connection of food, we find not only similarities between people, but also a chance to explore the differences.   Everyone needs to eat, and one of the easiest ways to bring people together is through food.

There is a hope that the 11,000.7 lbs shared so far, and the many pounds to come from this garden, will cultivate the same things; Nourishes - Sparks Conversation - Finds Common Ground - Brings People Together.

Thank you Mary Yang, Toni May and Joy Grognet for your work in the garden today!

- Contributing writer, Joni Fletty

9/16/13

More RCS Volunteers in the Garden!

Story to be posted soon!

Thank you to Becky Swanson and Mary Gilbertson for harvesting today!

9/12/13

RCS Chicks in the Garden!

RCS employees spent time harvesting the produce today.  Much to their surprise the potatoes were ABOVE ground.  Usually you have to dig for them.   This week they popped above ground begging to be harvested for eating.   
L to R:  Kelly Odegard, Joy Grognet,
Suzanne Erickson and Molly Brendmoen

Larger sized potatoes surprised us all as we harvested.   Zucchini is still producing, tomatoes are still ripening and we were happy to be able to supply many people with fresh food options for their tables.

- Contributing Writer, Joy Grognet, RCS

9/7/13

Sunny September Saturday!

Click any photo to enlarge
My Confirmation small group of 8th grade
girls from Trinity Lutheran Church spent a Saturday morning in the garden harvesting produce for our community!  We picked 64 pounds of 15 types of produce!  Thanks Sara and Portia for all of your help and knowledge as well!  After a steamy harvest, a shake at Gorman's tasted mighty fine!

- Contributing Writer, Kathy Luoma, MG


9/5/13

PowerUp Powered Up the Giving Garden!


PowerUp Team with a rainbow of veggies in hand!
L to R:  Marna Canterbury, Sephanie Kovarik, Jane McMullen and Lainie Steffen
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
 
Harvesting Edamame beans!
Weighing the produce
The PowerUp  team joined us in the garden today!  What is PowerUp?  PowerUp is a community-wide youth health initiative to make better eating and active living easy, fun, and popular, so that our youth can reach their full potential. 
Please click here to visit their website at:  http://www.powerup4kids.org/Home 

Marna with red veggies
Stephanie with purple cabbage
The vision of this Giving Garden and that of PowerUp are in direct alignment.  Part of PowerUp’s count down for powered up kids and families includes having four or more colors on your plate. Well, the group today was able to pick a wide variety of the color spectrum to donate and put on the plates of those residents who utilize the Valley Outreach food shelf!

Red; Dragon carrots, tomatoes, beets, rutabaga,
Orange:  Carrots, heirloom Nebraska Wedding tomatoes
Jane with a regular carrot and a
purple dragon carrot
Lainie with a LARGE Rutabaga!
Yellow: Corn, banana peppers, heirloom yellow pear tomatoes, summer squash
Purple:  Eggplant, purple cabbage, purple beans

Green:  Kale, kohlrabi, cucumbers, zucchini, edamame beans, green peppers,

Rainbow:  Rainbow Swiss chard, popcorn

Dragon and regular carrots
While working, the conversation turned to some of the wonderful recipes that could be made with these wonderful colors.
Red and gold roasted beets
Click for photo credit
Roasted Beets:
Cube beets, toss with olive oil and sea salt, and add sliced onions.  Grill in a veggie grill basket, or in the oven, until the mixture begins to caramelize.  You can also add garbanzo beans ¾ of the way through cooking to add a nutty flavor! 
You can also do this with carrots.

Edamame Beans:
You can either leave this in the pod and cook, or you can shell them like peas to add to a dish.  Below are two recipes:

Click for Photo Credit
Edamame Pod dish:  Make a sauce of 5 T of light soy sauce, 3T sesame oil.  If you want it spicier, you can add some Sriracha sauce.  Boil edamame pods for 1 minute.  Mix with sauce and enjoy!  You can top with red pepper flakes for even more spice.

Click for Photo Credit
Edamame and Couscous (or Quinoa):  Take about 2 cups cooked couscous or quinoa.  Add lemon juice, lemon zest, some chopped cilantro.  If you don’t grow edamame, you can find them in the freezer section.  Add thawed, shelled edamame beans.  To add more color to the dish, you can add diced tomatoes, peppers, etc., whatever you have available.  Delicious and nutritious!

Recipe Credit Martha Stewart
Edamame Spread:  Boil about 2 cups edamame and 3 large garlic cloves until tender, about 5 minutes.  In a food processor, puree edamame, garlic cloves, zest of one lemon, 1 to 2 T of the lemon juice, about a tsp of olive oil and1/2 cup water (can use the water they boiled in) until very smooth, about 2 minutes. If needed, thin by adding water one tablespoon at a time. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. (If needed, add additional water.) Serve with radishes and crackers.

Isoflavones, Antioxidants and Phytochemicals

Edamame has high nutritional value and health benefits. These green soybeans are a natural source of antioxidants and isoflavones, which has increased edamame's popularity in the United States. Antioxidants are beneficial because they can help prevent negative effects of free radicals in the body. Eating antioxidant-rich foods has been associated strengthening your immune system and with reducing your risk of cancer, hardening of the arteries and neurodegenerative diseases. Isoflavones are phytohormones that may help reduce prostate and breast cancer, diminish the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels and ease menopausal symptoms. Women who are menopausal and have low estrogen levels may benefit from snacking on a handful of edamame daily because of the natural soybean's phytochemical quality.

PowerUp Team after learning they set a new 2013 daily harvest record!
This group was truly Powered Up and broke a 2013 daily record by picking 151 lbs of produce today!  Thank you PowerUp team, not only for your volunteer hours in the Giving Garden, but for the wonderful initiatives, lessons and message you are bringing to the St. Croix Valley kids and families! We look forward to a very long partnership!
- Contributing writer, Joni Fletty

8/29/13

Sunset in the Garden!


A group of Junior Master Gardeners, their families and Master Gardeners Liz and Kathy gathered in the garden for one last harvest before the kids returned to school.  We picked 83 pounds of produce and then capped off the evening with Dilly Bars and Fruit Pops at sunset!  What a beautiful time of the day!  

We were excited to find sweet corn ready to pick!  We learned how to check for ripeness by carefully pulling back the corn silks to reveal nice-sized kernels and then checking their juiciness with a little poke.  Those that were ripe we picked using our strong muscles!  We remembered to pick only the sweet corn and not the popcorn.  Not yet!

The tomatoes are ripening like crazy now, and we enjoyed finding so many varieties of color, shape and size!  Those heirloom tomatoes the Junior Master Gardeners planted from seed back in April are now taller and wider than the kids!  We did observe and wonder about the funny lines and cracks on some of the tomatoes we picked.  
Growth cracks are often caused by fluctuations in water and fast-ripening in heat.  Blossom end rot is a condition caused by a calcium deficiency. Catface is a funny name for a disorder that may be caused by cold temperatures in the flowering stage.  The good news?  All of the tomatoes we picked despite the funny lines and cracks are still good to eat! 

 The University of Minnesota Extension website has good photos and information about tomato disorders.  Check it out!    http://www.extension.umn.edu

- Contributed by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma

8/26/13

Colorful Carrots, Cabbage Crawlies, Chipper Children...and Sweat!



J. Master Gardening Group
(Click on any photo to enlarge)

An hour is all that was needed on this steamy August morning to harvest 74 pounds of produce!  These worker bee Junior Master Gardeners and friends didn't seem to mind the heat as they worked! We found some critters in the garden today...imported cabbage worms, aphids and flea beetles!  We hand-picked the worms and watched ladybugs feast on the aphids. 

Just my own observation, but I believe the favorite veggie of the day to pick had to be the carrots!  Harvesting a carrot is a bit like pulling a prize out of a grab bag!  We sure hope it's a good one because we
can't put it back!  It was fun to watch the kids dig in the soil around the top of the carrot to see if it might be of good size and then give it a tug!  Orange, purple, most perfectly shaped but a few with an extra "leg" or two just to make it interesting!  

Did you know?  
§  Carrots are a root veggie that grow more uniformly in loose soil free of stones and rocks to prevent splitting.
§  Carrot seeds are some of the tiniest you will ever plant!
 §  The garden volunteers did a great job of thinning the carrot seedlings earlier this summer in order to give this root veggie room to grow!  
 §  Beta-carotene is the reason carrots have their bright color.
 §  Our bodies convert the beta-carotene into vitamin A which is great for eye sight!
  §  Carrots are one of the few veggies whose nutritional value remains high when raw or cooked whole.
   
--contributed by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma