Lexington Regional Health Center’s community garden was started in 2012. The Community Fitness Initiative (CFI) was vital in starting the garden. The garden is located beside the Presbyterian Church. CFI worked with the Presbyterian Church on the use of the land while coordinating the garden layout. The Lexington Optimists donated the fence used to secure the garden. Lein Lawn Service also provided the watering system for the garden that is still used today. CFI worked with Lexington Public Schools’ Afterschool Program at Lexington Middle School and Bryan Elementary to collaborate with the garden project.
The Lexington Afterschool Programs continued to help with the garden under the direction of Pat Samway, CFI coordinator, until 2017. Patricia Stewart, Project Director of the Afterschool Programs, saw the impact that the garden had on the children and decided that two afterschool programs, that were walking distance to the garden, should have their own garden. She wanted the children to have firsthand experience in growing a garden and learning the benefits of eating healthy foods. The garden was then kept up by Lexington Regional Health Center employees. Each week a different department would be assigned to care for the garden. Pat Samway and Jim Hain, COO, coordinated the weekly department responsibilities.
Many different community groups have helped with the garden over the years including the hospital Auxiliary, Mormon missionaries, and the ‘Keep Lexington Beautiful’ organization. The City of Lexington has volunteered to provide and empty the waste receptacles. They also donate the water that is used for the garden. Dawson Public Power has donated wood chips to prevent weed growth. These groups, among many others have been helpful in the success of the garden.
From year one, all of the produce has been donated to the Food Pantry or Mid-Nebraska Community Action. In 2017, Lexington Regional Health Center partnered with the Nebraska Extension Office to receive grant funding for the community garden. The grant project is aimed at increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for families experiencing poverty in Nebraska. The grant provided information and tips on how to grow a successful garden. The grant included necessary equipment and supplies for the garden’s productivity and appearance. This year, the garden harvested 2,336.50 pounds of produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, squash, and carrots.