In a picturesque corner of Theodore Wirth Park sits the one-acre JD Rivers’ Children’s Garden. For a quarter of a century, the garden has provided programs focused on children and teens, horticulture therapy and intergenerational programming with recent immigrants.
From late-May to late-September, children plant, weed, water, compost, harvest, prepare, sample and take home the garden produce, such as vegetables, herbs, and a little bit of fruit and flowers. Extra produce is donated to a local food shelf.
Garden plots are assigned to youth participating in summer programs on the site. Programs are also available to compatible groups or agencies that wish to provide gardening programs. Two recent examples of this include North Memorial Hospital’s horticultural therapy program as part of a depression clinic and the Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association’s effort to encourage the continuance of traditional Hmong gardening techniques through an intergenerational family program.
Garden participants also engage in hands-on environmental education programs such as insect safaris, water quality education, fishing, macro-invertebrate surveys, birding, tree treks and much more.
There is limited space available for youth serving agencies to have their group participate in the summer gardening program. Call 612-499-9248 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
History of the Garden
The garden’s origins date back to the 100th anniversary of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGE) in 1981. As part of the festivities, MGE selected a site in Theodore Wirth Park to plant a few acres into wheat and sunflowers, which are two of the crop futures traded at the MGE.
Children from recreation centers across the city were invited to see the field being plowed, planted and harvested using traditional farm implements like threshers. The wheat and sunflowers that were harvested were used by the children in creative art classes.
The field of wheat and sunflowers in bloom inspired local residents, JD and Ada Rivers, to approach the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) about creating a permanent garden for children at the site. The MPRB agreed it was a good idea and the following growing season, 1982, a children’s garden was born.
JD Rivers Garden is located north of Glenwood Ave. in the eastern part of the park. To the east is a restored prairie, and to the north is Bassett’s Creek, which flows to the Mississippi River. Look for the big Adirondack chair.
On street parking along Glenwood Ave. or at the boat launch parking lot (about a 5-minute walk to the Garden).
Historical Profile: More information about this and other parks is included in Parks, Lakes, Trails and So Much More, a richly detailed account of the histories of Minneapolis’ renown recreational system.
(See Theodore Wirth Park section)