Eudora Giving Garden ready to bloom in new, larger location

photo by: Lauren Fox

Aman Reaka, left, and Mary Kirkendoll, right, examine a row of Mizuna mustard greens at the Eudora Giving Garden on April 27.

After generous donations and a couple of grants, a Eudora community garden now has more room to grow.

The Eudora Giving Garden, which became a nonprofit in 2020, has quickly grown from a small downtown garden to a larger operation on a new plot of land that includes a greenhouse, a beehive, a cold storage shed and more.

The creators of the garden, Mary Kirkendoll and Aman Reaka, say the mission of the operation is simple: providing food for residents, teaching gardening skills and engaging with the community.

“For me, I like to grow, I like to teach, and I like to learn — and those are three things that happen every single day,” Reaka, who serves as the head grower, said. Reaka wants to teach kids and adults that growing produce is not difficult, and that it can even be done anywhere. Reaka knows that from experience.

photo by: Lauren Fox

Mary Kirkendoll, left, and Aman Reaka, right, and are pictured at the Eudora Giving Garden on April 27. The sign was created by Kathleen Estes.

Prior to moving the produce to the garden in February, Reaka was growing seedlings in his living room.

“All these babies have been in my house. My living room was just covered with grow lights,” he said. “But I had to stay on track to make sure these would be ready when it was go time.”

photo by: Lauren Fox

A mixture of pepper seedlings are pictured in the greenhouse at the Eudora Giving Garden on April 27.

Now, everything is at the garden, located at 545 W. 20th St. The 1-acre plot is about 2 miles south of downtown Eudora, located right next to the Eudora Baptist Church.

The front of the property includes a gravel parking lot, which was funded through grant money the nonprofit received in 2020. The two grants, which in total brought in about $50,000 to the operation, also went to moving the greenhouse, buying the shed, setting up utilities and more. Other aspects of the operation, such as the greenhouse, beehive and solar panels on the cold storage shed, were donated by members of the community.

photo by: Lauren Fox

Aman Reaka, the head grower at the Eudora Giving Garden, is pictured in the greenhouse on April 27. The greenhouse was donated by Pam Staub.

The Eudora Giving Garden started as a small plot of land between businesses in downtown Eudora. It took about three years for Kirkendoll and Reaka to figure out exactly what they were doing, but eventually they were able to produce enough flowers and produce to give some away.

“It’s amazing, when you start to give away, what comes back to you,” Kirkendoll said. Someone made a sign for the small garden, people would stop to give compliments and teens would take photos with the flowers.

“And then we kind of realized it could be better,” Reaka said. Kirkendoll found friends who donated the new plot of land across town, and in the same month, another friend donated the large greenhouse.

The nonprofit also teamed up with another nonprofit, Douglas County Master Gardeners, which will be cultivating a flower cutting garden at the front of the property. Diane Guthrie, a master gardener who is helping lead the effort, said they will be growing zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, dahlias and more. In addition to giving some flowers away for free, other flowers will be available for purchase. Guthrie also said Douglas County Master Gardeners has hosted some free workshops at the site.

In addition to the flowers, the front portion of the property will also include benches, pathways and a statue by local artist Gary Hinman. The site also features a new Little Free Library.

The garden has a “take what you need, pay what you can” structure to make sure everyone in the community has access to fresh produce. The garden is expected to generate dozens of types of produce, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli, peas, onions, greens, radishes, potatoes and more.

“For me, it’s for every community member to have the opportunity to eat fresh, local, organically grown food,” Kirkendoll said of the garden’s purpose.

photo by: Mary Kirkendoll

Volunteers Nancy Wickersheim, left, and Dana Chance, right, arranged and delivered flowers to Medicalodges Eudora and Homestead of Eudora on Saturday, April 24.

Kirkendoll and Reaka look forward to harvesting their produce later this season and hosting sales. They also hope to donate produce to senior facilities, food pantries, schools and nonprofits. Thus far, they’ve given away daffodils they planted on a warmer day in January to senior living facilities.

“Looking at people’s faces when we drop off daffodils … I mean, it’s just priceless. That makes my day every time,” Kirkendoll said.

Though Reaka is an experienced gardener, he can’t handle the large operation alone. Anyone interested in volunteering at the Eudora Giving Garden may email eudoragivinggarden@gmail.com to see how they can participate. Updates on the garden are also available on the garden’s Facebook page.

photo by: Mary Kirkendoll

Jimmie Dickerson, a resident at Homestead of Eudora, is pictured in April with daffodils donated by the Eudora Giving Garden.

photo by: Lauren Fox

A view of the Eudora Giving Garden from the back of the plot of land shows the solar panels on top of the shed, which were donated by Aaron Thakker.

photo by: Lauren Fox

Muir lettuce, left, and Ear of the Devil lettuce, right, are pictured at the Eudora Giving Garden on April 27.

photo by: Lauren Fox

Aman Reaka, the head grower at the Eudora Giving Garden, is pictured approaching the greenhouse on April 27. The plot of land for the Eudora Giving Garden was donated by Stephanie and Nolan Jones, who live next door to the garden.

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