Tag Archive | Community

In My Backyard: The Sauk County Gardener

One thing you’ll learn about gardeners: we love to share our knowledge and our experiences with other gardeners. Here is a reprint of an article from a fellow gardener in Sauk County that appeared in our State newsletter The Volunteer Vibe.


Phyllis Both, Sauk County UW-Extension Horticulture Educator

When I was a child many, many, many years ago I loved watching insects.  I would catch and study them under a microscope.  We had a neighborhood with a lot of kids.  We used our imaginations and made up old fashioned games.  My forte was bugs.  I’d catch them, put them in jars and charge a penny to view them.  It was so much fun for a little kid! Now days my interest is a little more extensive and I attend any entomology presentation I can.

Reedsburg-Pioneer-Village-Museum-SignWhen my Master Gardeners adopted a neglected historical site called the Reedsburg Area Pioneer Log Village we each adopted a cabin to beautify. We planted old-fashioned flowers and cared for the cabins to help attract more visitors and school children.  Black-eyed Susan’s, hollyhocks, daisies, and numerous hardy native plants were planted in the very poor soil the pioneers had to deal with.

These improvements helped but it was still not a village. Two victory gardens were planted.  It’s amazing how many people don’t know why the victory garden were planted during WWI and WWII.  It is a great teaching tool.  We loved the gardens but it was still not enough.  We started wondering what the pioneer doctors would have used since a drugstore or apothecary was not available.  An herb garden was built and medicinal herbs were planted.  This garden is another great teaching tool for both kids and adults.

What was still missing?  A prairie!  A natural habitat for bees, butterflies and wildlife was just what the village needed.  After a few summers went by, bluebird houses went up, bat houses went up, and native bee houses went up.

Still something was missing.  My love of the insect world must have pointed me in the right direction.  We decided to create a butterfly trail and add bee hives.  They work well together.  Fortunately three of my Master Gardeners were bee keepers and volunteered to get us started.

Top-bar_brood_comb_from_a_warre_hiveWe built three hives and ordered three colonies with three queens all from California. Our California girls were doing a great job this past summer but only in two of the hives. One of the hives was a bit lazy.  We still got fifty-one pounds of honey from the two productive hives.  We were amazed when the poor producing hive re-queened itself with a Wisconsin lady.  All three hives are buzzing with activity this spring.

I have learned so much about the wonderful community of bees; their leaders, their workers, their gate keepers.  The hives are wonderful teaching and learning tools for out busloads of visitors who have a love of nature.

72 Acres With A Mission

Riverview Gardens is a non-profit social enterprise in Appleton WI, focused on job training for people in need, operating with the core concept that all people have value and can contribute to the community where they live.  Riverview Gardens has five social enterprises, including a 15-acre certified organic urban farm with an apiary, microgreens operations, hydroponics greenhouse being constructed, a bakery and a soon to be launched retail operation.  A prairie is planned for installation on the urban farm in 2016.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

The seed for Riverview Gardens grew out of Executive Director Cindy Sahotsky’s participation in the inaugural class of the executive Social Innovation Leadership Experience (SILE) sponsored by Marquette University, the J. J. Keller Foundation and the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs.  Poverty and homelessness have many causes and cannot be resolved through shelter alone.  Some source of income is required to be eligible for transitional housing, and it is often impossible to secure employment without a current address and recent work history.   The enterprises provide unlimited job-training opportunities for the people served and a source of revenue.  Riverview Gardens sells produce, microgreens and bakery items through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, at a farmers market and to restaurants, grocers, hospitals and corporate cafeterias.

Founded in 1898, Riverview Country Club and golf course was Wisconsin’s oldest private country club and an Appleton institution until its closing in 2011.  Riverview Gardens’ founders saw the beautiful, prominent property as an opportunity to address critical community needs in a completely new way, at the same time preserving and protecting the land for agricultural use. Riverview Gardens is the collaborative transformation of a 72-acre golf course and related country club.  This transformation addresses serious regional challenges, including rising unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and lack of access to nutritious, fresh food, all with a financially self-sustaining model.

While Riverview Gardens isn’t training people to be farmers, job-training participants grow from the lessons of farm life and gain critical transferable job skills that helps them move forward to self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.  ServiceWorks, the job-training program, has successfully provided job-training to over 500 of our community members in need.

You can get involved in this transformative project by joining volunteering your time or donating much-needed garden tools.  You can also enjoy walking, running and biking on Riverview Gardens’ 72 acres daily from dawn to dusk.  For more information, visit http://www.riverviewgardens.org.  Riverview Gardens is transforming land, lives and the non-profit idea.

Written by Kelly Nutty

Posted by Bev