The Genesis Personal Development Center in David City for the past few months has been partnering with Nebraska Extension-Butler County providing area residents the opportunity to improve their green thumbs through the Open Arms Gardening Series.

The four-part instructional series – running the second week of April through the second week in September – is taking participants on a gardening learning adventure that starts with the planting of vegetable seeds all the way through canning.

“We really wanted to do the process all the way from beginning to canning,” said Melissa Bartels, innovative cropping and water systems educator for Nebraska Extension-Butler County. “Where they could kind of see from start to finish … We kind of want this to be something that we do with Genesis House every year, we just kind of change the series just a little bit.”

The first course focused on training participants how to plant seeds in the ground and the second on actually completing the planting process, said Nicole Gasper, Open Arms program manager for the Genesis House, an organization that focuses available resources and services on the restoration of wholeness to women and children recovering from domestic abuse.

The seeds in May were planted directly behind the Genesis House, 474 N. 12th St, and have started sprouting in the recent weeks. An assortment of vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, green beans, onions and potatoes were planted.

“We wanted to focus on things that were A, easy to grow that we could teach people – start off easy and start off slow,” Gasper said. “And then also things that will really yield the most so that we can help to sustain it; bring the highest yields and give us the most food.”

The final two free installments of the Open Arms Gardening Series are being held from 2-4 on Saturday, June 22, and from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10. The June session is being held in Brainard with Kristin Bailey at Fox Run Farms.

“Fox Run Farms used to do a thing like where you subscribe and then you got a box of vegetables,” Bartels said. “This year they scaled back a little, instead of a couple acres they are doing a 1-acre garden which still seems enormously big to me. But, they also have, I believe, fruit trees and a vineyard.

“They were willing to let people come out and see what they do … It’s one things to have your own garden and see how fast weeds can get out of hand with a small garden, but it’s another things seeing with an operation like that. We really want them to talk about the management and how they keep the insects and disease out of there, their weed control and that kind of stuff.”

The final session being held with Master Gardener Marilyn Zeilinger highlights the how-tos of canning. This will be held at the Genesis House.

Gasper said that the partnership with Extension – and others like Ace Hardware, Pekarek’s Produce and Fox Run Farms – has been beneficial in two ways. First, it has allowed for people to learn more about their food and how they can produce and cultivate it on their own.

Secondly, the produce raised at the Genesis House will directly benefit and impact the approximately 100 women and children it serves annually.

“With this it’s really going to help us with being self-sustaining,” Gasper said. “We are going to take the produce and give it to women who need it. With our other programs we like to provide other meals – lunches – during those programs. And we even do a lunch and learn with the ladies because a lot of times lunch is the time they can come and talk about their situations.

“So we really rely on our resources here to provide those lunches and that food. So, that is one of the biggest ways that it ties in with the Open Arms Program with the gardening.”

With this being the program’s inaugural trial, Gasper said she has been pleased with the community response. Generally, about a dozen or more people have attended one or both sessions. She noted that those who missed the first two sessions are still more than welcome to attend the latter ones.

Those attending learn more about gardening while also having their eyes opened to the work being done by the Genesis House and its associates. It really is another means to network while also providing a beneficial service to those living in the greater David City area. It helps the community actually know Genesis House is right in their own backyard.

“I lived here here for, gosh, three to four years and I really had no idea that this was here until I got involved,” Gasper said, adding that she started her current position in September 2018. “I just look back to my son – he’s 2 now but was just a baby (then) – and think, ‘wow,’ I could have really used somewhere like this to come and grow as a new mom. I don’t have any family here and I just think that this is a good place to go.

“I kind of look at it as a women’s center, a growing center.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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