HOME‎ > ‎Camps‎ > ‎

Camp garden promises healthier meals, giving and learning opportunities

Metigoshe Ministries, in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota, offers year-round opportunities to connect with God though the wonders of nature – and this year campers and staff can get even closer to nature by digging in the ministry’s new garden.


“The camp was interested in starting a garden to get more fresh veggies and nutrition in the camp diet.  The idea came from end of the summer evaluations where several staff made the suggestion for a camp garden, and the program director really liked the idea,” Laura Halvorson, Garden Coordinator said.


Halvorson has been working to implement the idea.


“I was interested in starting the garden because I have enjoyed home gardening for several years.  I love watching plants grow and develop from the tiny seeds into huge plants with lots of delicious food for us. It's truly miraculous!” Halvorson said.


A lot of research and time went into creating the 5,000 square foot garden. But Halvorson believes it is well worth the effort.


“The camp garden is a great experience for learning how to garden on a larger scale and it has the potential for huge impact in campers’ lives and those that work in it,” Halvorson said.


With last fall’s evaluations recommending nutritional improvements to the camp’s menu and suggesting a garden might be just the thing, Metigoshe staff started talking about a large-scale garden.  


The ministry’s interim director Jon Skogen liked the idea and when Halvorson’s husband, Rev. Jon Halvorson, came on as Executive Director in early winter of 2012, Rev. Halvorson proposed the garden as a new project for the camp with Laura Halvorson as the Garden Coordinator.


"As an intentionally rustic outdoor ministry, Metigoshe Ministries already had a strong history of caring for God's creation in creative ways.  I am thrilled that we are creating another way for our campers to become faithful caretakers.  Digging in the dirt offers fun and exciting ways to dig into scripture!  And it is amazing to watch all of the foods that youth will try (and like!) when they are involved in planting and harvesting the food," Jon Halvorson said.


The plan outline stated: Caring for creation includes caring for our bodies with good, fresh food because we are the body of Christ!


The Metigoshe Camp Garden plan included the goals of:
  • Providing fresh, natural, local food for nutritional camp menus;
  • Increasing camper and staff knowledge of God’s creation by learning about where their food comes from;
  • Campers taking an active role in producing the food they eat;
  • Providing educational outreach to the camp and wider community on themes of food production, food sustainability and nutrition;
  • Providing fresh produce for special events such as a fall festival;
  • Providing fresh produce for Bottineau Food Pantry during growing season.


Metigoshe’s board was excited about the idea and Laura Halvorson started the  job of planning and implementing the garden, including finding the garden site while snowshoeing through knee-high snow on a 20 degrees below zero day.


“I was interested in taking on the project and the board was behind the idea,” Halvorson said, simply.


Between February and mid-May of 2012, Halvorson had completed the planning, research, fund-raising and initial steps of starting the garden.  


Halvorson said she had a lot of support. From the outset, the executive director, Rev. Jon Halvorson and the program director, Melissa Reinhart, provided input on goal setting, setting up a planning framework and initial decision making.


“All of our ministry staff provided leads on information and local people to contact and I met with some long-time gardeners in the region for Q&A sessions,” Halvorson said.


She also reached out to contacts within the ELCA and the outdoors ministry network, which provided Halvorson with even more information and contacts at other camps with gardens. Halvorson also credits the research hints and website resources (such as Lutherans Restoring Creation) she was given as being very helpful in the planning process.


Another opportunity presented itself when the local college, Dakota College at Bottineau, which has a horticulture department with a focus on natural vegetable production, offered to provide information and support.


"They were extremely helpful, answering many questions I had regarding growing vegetables in our northern climate (we are only four miles from the Canadian border) and providing me with leads on local seed producers. They gave me documents on what the health department requires for serving locally produced food in an institutional setting and I was able to tour their facilities and ask questions about their crops.  Also they encouraged me to seek out the local extension agent for further questions and a grant possibility," Halvorson said.


The local extension office of North Dakota State University provided information and supported a grant proposal. The proposal was successful and brought the project an additional $1,000 through the Jr. Master Gardener program.


“I have had a lot of assistance from supporters of the camp on technical issues and building the initial infrastructure - breaking ground, tilling, providing and mixing topsoil, compost and sand, spreading the soil mixture, and installing a deer fence,” Halvorson said. "We are very thankful to have a strong base of support in the area for our ministry and are excited about how involved our supporters have been in this project from the start."


Several groups from the Minot area, a Spring Retreat group and a Lutheran church youth group, have come to the camp looking for service projects. Halvorson put them to work creating raised beds and trellis systems from salvaged materials.  


Halvorson also reports the local Lions Club has provided financial support and several members offered technical advice after she gave a presentation on the project.


One of Halvorson’s first thoughts was to reach out to Bottineau Food Pantry. If the ministry was going to have a large garden, they were likely to have a surplus. The idea fit Metigoshe’s mission and, therefore, was included as a component in the garden plan.


“I connected early on with the director of the local food pantry and they are interested in receiving a portion of our fresh produce,” Halvorson said.


Summer staff are learning about the garden and have had a chance to get their hands dirty in the garden during training sessions.


Along with the new garden Camp Metigoshe and Metigoshe Retreat Center incorporate many green practices, including:
  • Pit latrines instead of toilets; Sauna instead of showers;
  • Kerosene lanterns in cabins and several buildings instead of electric lighting;
  • Woodstoves instead of heaters in several buildings;
  • No AC or electric fans where campers stay, except in the nurse’s building;
  • Compost of raw food scraps and green materials instead of landfill;
  • Feed pastors' chickens with cooked food scraps instead of sending scraps to landfill;
  • Recycle aluminum, plastic, newspaper and cardboard;
  • Give milk cartons and large food cans to local gardeners for wind barriers for seedlings;
  • Use only non-treated woodchips for flower beds and pathways.