Rooted in Moorhead, ‘Little Free Gardens’ ready to grow

Published 8:15 am Monday, May 14, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — Gia Rassier and Megan Myrdal had been looking for a way to build on the success of their locally grown produce movement. In 2015, they’d started Ugly Food of the North, an effort to get people buying local produce even it was blemished or oddly shaped.

With a year of Ugly Food under their belts, they wanted to get people excited next about sharing food in their communities. Kicking around ideas, they found an answer in an unlikely place — the end of the driveway.

“We were kind of sitting around talking about ways to get people more involved with the growing and sharing of food and we love the Little Free Library idea,” Rassier recalled recently. “And we kind of were like, ‘What about Little Free Gardens.’”

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The Little Free Library movement, where people build a small bookshelf in their front yard to share books, began simply in Hudson, Wisconsin, and spread worldwide.

The Minnesota Public Radio reports that Rassier and Myrdal thought they could replicate that same small-is-beautiful vibe with little garden plots by the curb. That first spring, a few two-by-four foot wooden boxes popped up in front yards around Fargo-Moorhead, growing cherry tomatoes or peppers or herbs.

Now, as the project enters its third growing season, the idea has spread to 10 states and Canada, and there are more than 80 Little Free Gardens in Fargo-Moorhead.

Some are just boxes on the ground; others are on legs to deter hungry rabbits. Some people spend hours with a paint brush creating works of art.

“I’m a good example of, anybody can do it. We have no gardens,” said Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams, who admitted she’s “pretty tickled” to have Little Free Garden No. 1. She plants cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas because “they’re good snacks to eat as you walk by.”

The mayor might not claim a green thumb, but she does understand the value of neighborhoods.

“And frankly food is one of the key things people gather around, to get to know each other,” she said. “So, what better way to share what you have with your community and broader community to get to know each other?”

That’s exactly what the creators of Little Free Gardens hoped would happen around the small vegetable plots. The tiny gardens aren’t going to grow enough to feed a community, but the values they represent offer substantial food for thought, said Myrdal, a co-founder.