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'One Vegetable, One Community' dispensing free starter seed kits

One of the goals of the "One Vegetable, One Community" campaign is to feed the good food revolution. Organizers are offering free seed packets, containing this year's featured veggie, to inspire the community to grow and cook one vegetable. (Photos by Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

It's the year of the bean.

"One Vegetable, One Community" (OVOC) is a new, community-wide gardening campaign that encourages gardener of all levels to grow and prepare a single vegetable.

This year's designated vegetable is green and purple beans.

Residents, businesses, churches, government offices and others are urged to grow the tasty legumes in containers, raised beds, planter boxes or gardens.

As part of the OVOC initiative, free seed packets will be given away, beginning Monday, March 27 at a kickoff event. Held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Century Elementary School, it is open to the public. Local farmers, games and a container gardening demonstration are among the evening's activities.

"'One Vegetable, One Community' is a multi-agency partnership to increase access to local produce in the area," explains Donna Anderson, SNAP-Ed educator.

It is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed, Institute on Environment and Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.

Other towns in Minnesota have launched OVOC, but this will be a first for the Park Rapids area.

Anderson hopes OVOC will start conversations about food and how communities can support healthy lifestyles.

Green beans can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, boiled, steamed or sauteed. They are a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin.

They are easy to grow, adds Anderson.

Three hundred seed packets will be made available, starting in April, through the Hubbard County U of M Extension Office, Park Rapids Library, Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Hubbard County Food Shelf.

The packets include planting tips, a children's activity, gardening sticks, nutritional information, and, of course, green bean and purple bean seeds. They will be distributed as long as supplies last.

The 4-H Green Valley Livewires assembled the seed packets last weekend.

"I feel it's valuable to promote vegetables, and it's a fun project," said Jan Jackola, one of the volunteer 4-H leaders.

Additional OVOC events are planned throughout the growing season.

The Park Rapids Library will host a kid-friendly event at in May. Story time will star "Jack and the Beanstalk."

On Monday, Sept. 11, community members will vote for the 2018 OVOC featured vegetable. Drawings, games, recipes and more will be part of the celebration, to be held at Century Elementary School.

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