Deer River Community Garden

Pictured, from left, are Gabe Hoffman, Sally Sanvig, Samuel Hoffman and Elise Hoffman at the Deer River Community Garden they helped grow this summer. Not pictured, is big brother Logan Hoffman who also helped.

She has been gardening since she was a child. And has now gotten her grandchildren digging in the dirt.

“I do it now for my grandkids and I,” Sally Sanvig, of Grand Rapids, stated. “They are learning to plant, weed and harvest.”

Eleven-year-old twins Samuel and Gabe Hoffman and younger sister Elise Hoffman, four, of Grand Rapids, helped her out the most. Her grandson Logan, 13, broke his leg earlier this summer and was only able to get in on the planting and some of the weeding. Sanvig said she has two other grandchildren, Elk River, who had tried having a garden once, but the deer and wildlife ended up eating it, so they didn’t try one again.

“The kids just love it, they love their zucchini’s,” Sanvig said. “The kids bake breads, muffins and cakes with the zucchini, and hotdishes. The corn we just eat, that goes so fast.”

This year due to the rain, there was a lot of weeds, she said, but their produce, especially their spaghetti squash, loved all the moisture.

“The small stuff got smothered out,” she said. “But we have lots of zucchini, corn, squash and pumpkins.”

She tended to feel as if the community garden in Grand Rapids was cleaner, but is hopeful that next year the Deer River garden will even be better. Due to COVID, the Grand Rapids Community Garden near Itasca Community College remained closed.

“This is the first year I’ve had a garden in Deer River,” Sanvig said. “Last year I had one at the Grand Rapids site.”

They planted corn, zucchini, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, green beans, cantaloupe and jalapeno peppers.

Between the $10 plot fee, and less than $10 she spent on seeds at Walmart, she explained it didn’t cost her much of anything.

“Everything was planted from seeds, besides for tomatoes and peppers,” the North Dakota native said. “I can’t get down on my knees anymore, so the kids helped out with that. I’ve got new knees and it doesn’t work as good.”

Sanvig moved to the Grand Rapids area a few years ago, to be closer to her kids and grandkids.

“I hope they get some more people up there,” she said of the garden, as it is such a great outdoor and healthy activity.”

As for now, most of the produce has reached its full maturity, and she just has to pick in the remaining squash and zucchinis. She explained she used to do a lot of canning and freezing, but mostly the produce now is just used for fresh eating.

“I give the tomatoes to my daughter, she uses them up in salads and sandwiches,” Sanvig said.

Anna Johnson, with Get Fit Itasca, stated their hopes were to get a water spigot for the garden this year, but that didn’t happen.

“I was only able to add a large 330 gallon rain barrel near the garden and the fire department agreed to water the plots again, if needed,” Johnson said.

Kari Ellefsen, a teacher in the Deer River Schools, was a volunteer that helped maintain the areas other than the plots, trimming grass, spraying weeds and keeping the plastic in place.

“Otherwise the whole place would be overrun with weeds for the plot renters,” Ellefsen said. “I’ve only volunteered to maintain the garden this year to give me something to do over the summer. This year I just wanted to keep the weeds under control so it wouldn’t become too overgrown around the plots. Next year, I’m hoping we can get the City to install a pump or other watering system so it’s more convenient for the renters.”

Ellefsen has enjoyed gardening since she lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“I worked as a gardener and landscape designer for about seven years,” Ellefsen said. “I hadn’t done any gardening since moving back here in 2015, so I enjoyed the work this summer. Maybe next year I will put a plot in for myself.”

The Deer River Community Garden is located at 120 6th Avenue Northwest in Deer River, Minn., behind the White Oak Inn and next to the skating rink. Garden coordination and plot rental is managed by Get Fit Itasca. All Itasca community members are welcome to rent plots seasonally.

The garden season runs from the end of May until mid-October. Each plot is eight feet by 10 feet and is tilled and prepared to grow produce and/or flowers for harvest. A fence around the garden is up to keep deer and pests away.

Applications for next year’s season can be found online or are also available at Deer River City Hall.

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