Growing Together School and Community Garden

May 26, 2011 The first Project Orange Thumb in our hometown

Worm boxes and pizza gardens haven’t always been a part of the curriculum at Black Hawk Middle School on Madison’s north side, but the installation of a new school-community garden on May 26 on the northeast corner of Black Hawk’s campus will provide a “growing” number of possibilities for students and nearby community members.

As part of our Project Orange Thumb initiative, Fiskars has partnered with Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc. (CAC), Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and The Home Depot Foundation to transform an empty field into a beautiful and productive school-community garden full of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Dark skies and gusty winds in the morning turned to sunshine and light breezes in the afternoon, making May 26 a perfect day for nearly 100 volunteers from Fiskars, the Home Depot, CAC, and the local community to join forces to build the new “Growing Together School and Community Garden.” The new 14,400 square-foot garden will be used for school gardening activities to enhance and sustain ongoing curricular activities at Black Hawk Middle School and Gompers Elementary School. The garden will also be home to numerous community garden plots as well as a vibrant community gathering space and food-yielding garden.

First Dig ceremony

The garden installation kicked off at 7:45 a.m. with a first dig made by Fiskars Americas President Paul Tonnesen; gardening expert, author and TV host of “Growing a Greener World” Joe Lamp’l; Community Action Coalition Food and Gardens Division Manager Chris Brockel; Black Hawk Principal Sean Storch; and Northside resident, Black Hawk parent and garden coordinator Rebecca Kemble. By 8:00 a.m. the garden was bustling with eager volunteers pushing wheelbarrows, carrying plants, building raised beds and digging in the dirt.

Throughout the day, classes from Black Hawk Middle School and Gompers Elementary school paraded through the garden to learn how to grow strawberries and what to plant in a pizza garden. Hands eagerly shot into the air as the students answered and asked questions about the garden, and elementary students smiled and squirmed when they saw the slippery residents of the worm box. Middle school Spanish classes explored the garden learning Spanish vocabulary and art students placed mosaic stepping stones around the garden’s central gathering space. Some classes even grabbed shovels and wheelbarrows and made short work of a six foot mountain of dirt.


As music played over the loudspeakers and the garden began to take form, neighbors walking or driving by on Wheeler Road stopped to learn what brought the tents, trucks and volunteers to their neighborhood. Many neighbors were pleased to learn they could sign up to rent a garden plot. All plots were rented by the end of the day and a few of the pre-registered plot owners joined in the day’s activities and got a head start on their planting.

Volunteers remained upbeat and diligent throughout the day as they worked to transform the once-empty garden space and took breaks to learn about herbs or how to properly plant a tree from Joe Lamp’l. The hard-working crew moved so efficiently that there was time to install a fence around the perimeter of the garden and a pathway between the garden and a neighboring retirement complex.

Ribbon Cutting

The garden installation concluded with a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3:00 p.m. in which several school district representatives and elected officials representing the Northside community spoke to the volunteers, community members and students gathered at the entrance of the garden. Ice cream treats were enjoyed after the ribbon cutting as people explored the newly created garden.

From students at Gompers Elementary and Black Hawk Middle School to neighbors in the nearby retirement home and everyone in between, the “Growing Together School and Community Garden” is a warmly welcomed addition by community members of all ages and will undoubtedly serve the students and Northside community for years to come.

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Support Future Community Gardens
Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin

To help support the development of new community gardens and expansion projects in Dane County, please make a donation to CAC.

Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc. (CAC) is a non-profit organization committed to reducing poverty in Dane, Jefferson and Waukesha Counties. Founded in 1966, CAC has offered assistance and created solutions for over 40 years. The CAC Community Gardens Program helps communities develop and coordinate community gardens, build leaders and strengthen neighborhoods in Dane County. There are now over 50 community gardens in the Madison area serving nearly 2,400 households.

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