A group of community members sitting around a table in the meeting room of the Redwood Falls Public Library talked about outdoor activities they enjoyed as children.
Whether it was climbing trees or playing house in the grove, those memories brought smiles to the faces of those recalling them.
Today’s kids are not making those memories, but a new project in the Redwood Area hopes to change that.
Called the Apple Gourd project, the initiative has been established to address the needs of low income families with children ages zero to five and pregnant moms to help them understand the value of eating healthy, finding ways to access healthy foods and getting active.
“Kids like to play outside,” said Michelle Breidenbach. “They are just so distracted by technology.”
To help get kids outside, the Apple Gourd project is working on the creation of a community garden and a natural play area on a piece of land north of the Redwood Valley Middle School/High School campus – where the FFA garden and community gardens are currently.
Breidenbach, who served as the grant manager for a Blue Cross and Blue Shield planning allocation the Red-wood Area Early Childhood Coalition received, said the group who put the plan together worked to develop a plan that would best serve the community and would help get the community active in working together for a common cause.
“So many kids are nature deprived,” Breidenbach said. “We need to find ways to get them outside.”
She said there are so many benefits to getting outside that it just makes so much sense to encourage that whenever it is possible.
The planning group held a meeting this past Thursday at the Redwood Falls Public Library to let the community know what it has been working on and also to recruit additional people to help with the next stages of the Apple Gourd project.
A $60,000 Blue Cross and Blue Shield grant has been given to the early childhood coalition to implement the plan, and the project is eligible to potentially receive two more years of funding, including $50,000 in the second year and $40,000 in the third year.
To help the public see the vision for the project, Allan Bakke of Western Commun-ity Action in Marshall presented information about Community Blooms – a community garden project which was established in Marshall.
“We are in our third year of the garden and it continues to grow,” said Bakke.
In the first year, the garden produced 2,000 pounds of food, with half being given to those involved and the other half donated to the food shelf. The second year saw a major increase with 12,000 pounds of fresh produce harvested, with 6,000 pounds given to the families and 6,000 donated to the food shelf.
Page 2 of 2 - Bakke said the group anticipates 18,000 pounds of produce in the third year.
Not only was the garden developed to produce healthy food for low income families, it was also intended to be a place where healthy relationships could be established and nurtured.
Bakke said there have been opportunities for kids, families and people of all ages and walks of life to get involved with each other.
“It is amazing how many kids have no concept of what a garden is,” Bakke said. “When they get in-volved they are wide-eyed with wonder when they see things growing they planted.”
The local group is hoping to take that same idea and utilize it in Redwood Falls, with the intention of expanding the garden and natural play area concepts to the other communities in the Redwood Area School District, including the Lower Sioux community, Morton and Belview.
There are opportunities for people to get involved with the project through five work groups, including site preparation, referral and recruitment of families who would benefit from the project, promotion and marketing, education and the natural play area.
Breidenbach stepped down from the role of grant manager, and Pam Prouty has agreed to take on that role as the project moves forward. Those who have an interest in the initiative can contact Prouty or Teri Smith.