In 2006, Jack Wood and Nola Storm founded Growing Together in Fargo, North Dakota. “Our vision originally was to help new Americans adjust to life in Fargo by bringing them together to work in the garden with longtime residents to form the bond of neighbors,” says Jack. The founders developed a Growing Together Tool Kit that has helped numerous communities in the area start gardens. Today, they actively manage 6 gardens that cover 2.14 acres. Last year they produced over 57,000 pounds of produce.
The organization has seven Master Gardeners that volunteer with their program in addition to a number of Agriculture graduate students from nearby North Dakota State University. “We grow all varieties of produce. Our specialties are heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers,” explains Jack. Their planting season starts in early May and the first frost in Fargo is usually in mid-September. Growing Together now has two greenhouses and are working on obtaining funding for a larger hoop house.
In 2016, Jack had the opportunity to speak at TedxFargo and share the story of Growing Together. In his speech, Jack layed out the principles that drive the community garden. “I’m a firm believer that one person can make a difference, but a team of people can make a huge difference in the lives of many,” stated Jack. Jack and some of his friends wanted to make a difference for the growing immigrant population in Fargo. He knew that the new citizens of the city were looking for community, relationships, and good healthy food. He also knew that many of them had limited income, which made it difficult for them to afford fresh fruits and vegetables. A community garden could help solve the needs of this group of people who needed access to social interaction with longtime citizens and fresh produce. “Everyone is on equal footing and everyone shares the fruits of our collective labors. It doesn’t matter if the person next to you is a millionaire or on assistance. In the garden, we are on equal footing,” said Jack.
The goals of Growing Together extend past the garden. Jack explains, “We strive to be inclusive, where friendships and communities cross the ethnic boundaries. We don’t simply work together for two hours per week and go our separate ways. We become involved in each other’s lives, and make friendships beyond those garden gates.” The garden started with eight families. Today, over 150 families are active participants, not only in growing vegetables but in building a stronger city bound together through mutual trust and neighborly relationships.
Growing Together’s the first experience with Gorilla Carts® was through a donation from a local Girl Scout troop. From then on, they put Gorilla Carts at the top of their list when different organizations asked what they could donate. Last year, Thrivent Financial donated two more carts to the community garden, giving them a fleet of three.
“The ruggedness of the cart is the greatest feature. Also, the dump feature is very useful when transporting compost,” says Jack. Before they had carts, Jack’s team used wheelbarrows. “They were constantly tipping over when an inexperienced user was pushing. With the Gorilla even a small person can move a large load,” says Jack.
The work of community building continues for Jack and all the families who have followed his vision. Growing Together is continually working towards a healthier Fargo filled with stronger relationships. Jack states, “Teamwork builds the trust imperative to build the community…gardening can bond people like nothing else can and we are proof of that.”