McLeod For Tomorrow’s leadership program is deeply rooted in building personal and leadership development. While it is clear that investing in the leadership skills of rural communities can help them grow, it can be hard to quantify these differences. How could we showcase that investing in the program goes deeper than personal skills?
Alumni can tell you about their experiences. The University of Minnesota Extension can conduct research on the economic impact. We can tell you that it builds community, but do any of these things really show the difference made from attending the program?
To help this, the MFT board decided to create a project that would show that the investment in McLeod For Tomorrow goes deeper than personal skills. Thus, the annual civic project was born.
Civic Project Creation
Originally starting as a hopeful idea, the details of the civic project took months of planning. The board had to really figure out how they wanted to invest in the future of McLeod County. Fortunately, an opportunity arose to assist Brownton with creating a new community garden. This was project that improves access to healthy foods and builds community.
What is especially interesting about this project, is that it all started with McLeod For Tomorrow. It all started in November 2021, during the Brownton and Stewart day. One of our participants mentioned that there are Statewide Health Improvement (SHIP) funds available for McLeod County health programs. In February of 2022, a Brownton resident asked if there was interest in a community garden on the local Facebook page. This caused me to initiate the connection between both individuals and get the ball rolling for this community resource!
The process to get the city to approve the plan for a community garden underwent successfully. Soon, Gardeners were able to sign up for their plot.
Implementing the Plan
The original plan was to work for about 3 hours, but many of us stayed for 5 hours or longer. Because this project was at the end of our program year, we all know each other quite well! Working together came easily and was a blast! Some of us had experience installing fences before, others were new to the process. Together, we did a pretty good job on the fence, if I do say so myself.
Doing something together as a cohort that made a difference was a great way to end the program. It allowed for us to gather one extra time during the program year while doing something that actually meant something for the community.
Why This is Important
The opportunity to add accessibility to fresh produce to Brownton is important. Produce was the only kind of food not available in Brownton, thanks to Dollar General and their Meat Market. It was an opportunity for our leaders to connect with the community, put some hard work in for a good cause, and make a difference. The ability to build something up from an idea into fruition was something we are proud of. It is a tangible benefit from the program and shows the investment of our program goes deeper than personal skills.
Future Civic Projects
An official decision on the spring 2023 civic project has not been decided. We know the 2022-2023 cohort will have a project that makes a difference in one town in McLeod County. The Board is currently reviewing what the application process, sustainability, and opportunities or needs in the area. Helping get the Brownton Community Garden started is an accomplishment we are proud of. We can’t wait to see the garden full of lush plants and produce for community members.
Keep in Contact with the Brownton Community Garden
The website for the community garden is found here.
They also have a Facebook page called Brownton Community Garden.