Giving gardens



The Remer Community Garden in Cass County sits behind the Father’s Heart and Hands food shelf, 25 miles southwest of Grand Rapids. Laura Moraczewski, an Extension Master Gardener volunteer, responded to an article in the local newspaper seeking people to help revitalize the garden. She ended up helping to write the garden’s new chapter. 


Colorful painted sign in of garden that says Remer Community Garden


Moraczewski devoured Extension horticultural information to put to use in the garden. Once in disuse, the garden became part of the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) in 2020. 

“I attended dozens of Extension webinars on everything from raised bed gardens to soil amendments to critters,” she says.


Greens sitting in a bin at the food shelf

Greens from the Remer Community Garden grace the Father’s Heart and Hands food shelf.


Her expertise paid off. She became the Remer Community Garden’s manager and helped its gardeners produce 9,600 pounds of produce in the last four years, donating to the adjacent food shelf and others in the area.

In this side-by-side, hands-on environment, curiosity and learning flow freely. 

The community helps with everything: hauling in compost to improve the soil, building the raised beds, and building a large fence to keep out the deer, rabbits, bears and coyotes. Local businesses donated funds for materials. They even paid for some apple trees. 


A new way to volunteer


The home giving garden started as one of several options during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed Master Gardeners to continue volunteering when in-person options were limited. Thanks to its success, it’s an ongoing option. 

In 2023, 10,734 pounds of donated produce were grown in Master Gardeners’ home gardens. 

One benefit is increased access. Some Master Gardeners have continued volunteering while caring for themselves or a family member at home. For Master Gardeners with limited access to transportation, not needing to travel to a site translates to more volunteer hours at home. 

More than 30 Master Gardeners responding to a survey noted that their at-home giving gardens became informal teaching gardens, reaching neighbors who would not normally seek out educational opportunities.

“Neighbors who watched the progress of the garden over time have circled back to ask more questions,” says one volunteer. 


Big-time garden feeds many 


In addition to teaching classes and answering questions in a booth, Joyce Hochsprung, a Master Gardener in McLeod County, has had a large garden for many years. 

She connected with a local food shelf and asked, "What do you need?" In 2022, she donated nearly 600 pounds of produce. In 2023, it was 700. She notes that, after adding more refrigeration, her local food shelf was able to accept more fresh produce donations. 

“Last fall we took in a load of squash,” says Hochsprung. “One of the gals helping us to unload just about had tears in her eyes, saying, ‘Thank you — you know, we just don’t get a lot of this.’"



  • A giving garden is a home or community garden in which the harvest is donated, typically to a local food shelf. 

  • In 2023, the Extension Master Gardener volunteer program donated 45,683 pounds of produce. 

  • Master Gardeners also shared horticultural knowledge and contributed to a sense of pride and community.



a big pile of oblong delicata squash, which is cream colored with spots of orange and green stripes.


Best seeds for Minnesota green thumbs 


The Master Gardener Seed Trials provide tasty educational opportunities. One hundred Master Gardener volunteers from across Minnesota test seeds to determine what grows best in this climate. Volunteers compare varieties and share their growing experiences, providing valuable information for home gardeners. Visit the publication in the U of M Digital Conservancy for results. 

Laura Moraczewski runs seed trials in part of the Remer Community Garden. Last year, she dedicated five raised beds to green beans. Food shelf clients, staff and volunteers participate in the taste-testing and rating.

 “They really get into that,” says Moraczewski. “They could keep as much of it as they wanted. If they didn’t like it, they didn’t have to take any.” 

Some of the most popular produce with taste-testers? Delicata squash and tomatoes. Not so much? Mustard greens. 

The community garden continues to grow and expand, with more people interested in renting plots, and even becoming Master Gardeners. 

“I think in town it’s a source of pride,” Moraczewski says. “Having something beautiful like that and getting people involved—word spreads.” 


Graphic created using narrow vertical images of the five people featured in a video


What's it like to be a Master Gardener? Hear from your neighbors


Visit Master Gardeners in action to watch videos featuring nine of these devoted University of Minnesota Extension volunteers. Stories of discovery, growth and connection are embedded in the work they do every day around Minnesota.



The Drummer and The Wright County Journal Press

PO Box 159
108 Central Ave.
Buffalo MN 55313

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