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West Bloomington Garden Needs Money, Manpower To Keep Growing

Jan Turner at Sunnyside Community Garden
Eric Stock
Jan Turner is seeking more help to manage Sunnyside Community Garden as it provides produce in a Bloomington food desert.

A vegetable garden that's been growing in a west Bloomington food desert has come to a crossroads.
Jan Turner, previous owner of Native Plants of Illinois and Wildwood Mushroom Farm of Normal, is running the Sunnyside Community Garden since her child, Col Connelly, started the project for a class at Normal Community High School in 2016 but now is now pursuing new directions, leaving Turner to run it largely on her own.

“As I get older, I’m getting slower and it’s taking more effort to keep up with it,” Turner said, adding she spends about 10 hours per week working in the 1.5-acre garden. It’s on city land adjacent to Sunnyside Park, 1700-1898 Illinois St.

It produces all kinds of vegetables, including spinach, zucchini, tomatoes and cabbage. Volunteers recently planted fruit trees and hope to add a greenhouse that would be powered by solar and alternative energy sources so that it could supply produce year-round.

The garden gets volunteer help throughout the school year from Illinois State University’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, among others.

Turner donates all the produce to Home Sweet Home Ministries, Veggie Oasis, and the Boys and Girls Club. What’s left is given away on Wednesday nights each week. Children at the Boys and Girls Club have given some of their time to learn more about farming.

Turner said the garden needs financial and volunteer help to continue.

“The vision is still there, we think it’s a good idea,” she said. “We’ve been reaching out to others and they do think it’s a good idea to support and sustain.

“It’s just that we need to have more help.”

Turner said she’s like to hire a manager for the site if they can raise enough money through donations and grants to pay for one.

The garden is hosting an open house on Sept. 6 from 4-6 p.m.

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