Community Service: A Garden Grows in Minneapolis

February 1, 1997

When you think of charitable donations, you probably think of canned foods, clothing, or money. You probably wouldn't think of fresh produce.

Roger Gillespie thought of it, though. In fact, the Minneapolis-area Counselor Realty broker has taken his hobby--gardening--public. After one bountiful backyard harvest, he found himself with extra tomatoes and no one to eat them. So he donated them to his county's food depository for the needy, where he serves on the board of directors.

That gesture blossomed into a half-acre garden that now, five years later, generates more than 2,500 pounds of produce--cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, squash, and eggplant, to name a few of the 12 varieties of vegetables--and feeds more than 1,100 people a month during the six-month growing season.

The garden sits in a city-owned lot--water and land are free--in Columbia Heights, a suburb of Minneapolis, next to the food depository. That makes delivery easy and keeps spoilage down, notes Gillespie. ''We harvest on Sundays and Wednesdays so that people have fresh produce on Mondays and again in the middle of the week and it doesn’t sit at the shelter over the weekend.'' About eight other volunteer gardeners work with him.

Although Gillespie's real estate knowledge helped him locate the lot-cum-garden, the low-key broker says he hasn't had any other business tie-ins with the project. ''I don’t do it for the business.''

Christina Hoffmann
Senior Speech Writer

Christina Hoffmann has covered real estate and homeownership for two decades, including as REALTOR® Magazine managing editor and’s content manager, with added expertise as owner of a demanding 100-year-old house. She is currently a senior speech writer at NAR.

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