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Wello and Green Bay Botanical Garden Partner to Grow Community Well-Being

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a walk through the Green Bay Botanical Garden. On this warm, sunny, spring day, I was able to take in all the colors and views of the plants, art, and architecture. Staff, interns, and volunteers were working to plant and maintain the gardens for all to enjoy while hearing the sounds of splashing water from the fountain, birds chirping, and kids laughing in the new Bell Children’s garden. My visit was a reminder of the natural beauty the Garden and northeast Wisconsin has to offer. 

While these are all things you’ll experience while at the garden, this story will focus on what is leaving the garden grounds. 

Since 2019, with the exception of 2020 due to Covid, the Green Bay Botanical Garden has grown an average of 2,000 vegetable plants a year with the purpose of donating them out into the community.

“We believe plants build community and we want to have a two-pronged approach of healthy eating and healthy food and native plants and pollinators,” said Mark Konlock, Director of Horticulture for the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

Production starts in November, followed by ordering seeds in December, and then planting the seeds between February - April based on when they will be donated. The seeds are taken care of in their greenhouses until they are ready to be transplanted. 

“We want to grow out in the community because we want people to know about us even if they aren’t able to visit us or haven’t over the years and we hope that they will eventually come to our grounds and see everything,” said Konlock. “But, we realize that not everyone knows about us or can get out to us so this is another way for us to reach them where they’re at.”  

This year, the Green Bay Botanical Garden worked with our local farming hub partner, Seasonal Harvest LLC., to receive over 400 starter plants to provide to our growers and other food system partners to support prioritizing local produce and the growth of Wello’s Cultivating Community, our well-being based food systems initiative. Starter plants were provided for school gardens in the De Pere and Howard-Suamico School Districts.

Others were provided to the Door County Farm for Vets and Hmong farmers we are working with through our Wisconsin Local Food Purchase Assistance (LFPA) Community Partner Grant. The produce grown from these starter plants will be distributed to the clients served through our Cultivating Community partners Casa ALBA Melanie, COMSA, We All Rise African American Resource Center, Vivent Health, Innovative Services Inc. (ISI), St. Vincent de Paul of Marinette, and several school pantries between July and December of this year. 

“We believe food connects people and that’s a good way for us to get to start to know more people and groups in our community,” Konlock said.

The produce that will be grown from these starter plant donations include okra, shallots, chives, garlic chives, dill, mizuna mustard, collards, purple stem broccoli, organic cauliflower, jalapeno, red chili pepper, red bell pepper, red hot pepper, red curly lettuce, romaine lettuce, curly parsley, lima bean, yellow slicing tomato, and yellow cherry tomato. 

Wello and Seasonal Harvest look forward to growing this partnership in the coming years as we work with the Green Bay Botanical Garden to grow culturally specific vegetables our community is asking for. 

“Knowing what produce people really want and our opportunity with our facilities to grow it is exciting,” said Konlock. “We’ll have more appropriate vegetables people identify with and is part of their cuisine and part of their heritage so we hope to learn more ourselves and help everybody continue to grow together in our community.”

If you’re reading this and ready to start growing your own produce, Konlock’s advice is to take on what you can reasonably manage and be successful with so you want to continue to grow it bigger and better. These words reflect how Wello works by starting small, building on early wins, and growing an effort to improve the well-being of our community just like this partnership with the Green Bay Botanical Garden. 

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