Mn Adult and Teen Challenge Sustainable Garden

Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge Workstudy Garden Project

Central Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge

Work Study Sustainable Gardens


Establish a horticulture hands on educational program enhancing MnTC’s faith based addiction treatment and recovery programming.


Educated by Crow Wing County Master Gardeners and other knowledgeable experts and mentors, clients are guided and fully engaged with constructing, planting, managing, harvesting and utilizing the produce they grow in their onsite sustainable garden and orchard. Clients and onsite dining facility management guide what is grown, supplementing fresh fruits and vegetables consumed onsite by the clients.                                                                       

MnTC’s mission is to assist teens and adults in gaining freedom from chemical addictions and other life controlling problems, by addressing their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. The sustainable garden is hands-on healing, proven very effective in enhancing a clients critical well-being and recovery. The nurturing, patience tactile interaction and positive accomplishments all aid in the process of overcoming the barriers to healthy living. Gardening enhances the educational and experiential connection between humans and the natural world. Results are measurable through consistent commitment, communication, teamwork, problem solving, responsibility and pride.

MnTC’s Educational and Well-being Garden Program, 10 year Plan:

Year 1, 2014: General population clients completed: Clients have:

  • Cleared sod and weeds from vegetable garden site
  • Assisted DNR fencing expert (retired) Nick Reindel install garden perimeter deer and rabbit fencing and gates.
  • Removed construction fill dirt, and assembled/backfilled with good garden soil- extensive number of raised bed and in-ground growing beds.
  • Master Gardeners Ken Lueken, and Dick Raymond guided general population clients with planting first 3 apple trees for the onsite orchard, crab apple, Balui Cherry, Toka and other sweet plum trees,.
  • Master Gardeners Joyce Mikesh and Ken Lueken guided clients in planting several initial native pollinator plant beds.

Year 2- Initiated and ongoing in 2015:

  • January to May 1st: CWC Master Gardeners presented one hour weekly basic botany and horticulture presentations tailored to the MnTC clients garden programming. Presentation sessions were recorded and added to the MnTC Garden Library.
  • Inaugural planting, caring for, and harvesting of fresh chemical free culinary herbs and vegetables. Any excess vegetables are shared first with clients families, then local shelters and food shelves.
  • Installed two sets of grape vine supports, and planted four grape vine plants, with guidance by Master Gardeners in initial vine structure pruning
  • Initial strawberry (June bearing and Indeterminate) varieties planted
  • Two varieties of blueberries planted (8 total plants)
  • June, 2015: The CWC Extension Committee, with Jackie Froemming, CWC Master Gardener Program Coordinator, met with MnTC staff, clients, and Master Gardener Ken Lueken to tour the new garden site, and discuss continued community support of the MnTC garden programming.
  • Fall, 2015: Onsite canning, preserving, and hands-on jelly/jam making education was presented by CWC Master Gardener Joyce Mikesh with clients, to enhance clients knowledge and skills. Preserves created were enjoyed by clients and staff into late 2015.
  • MNTC onsite Deep Winter Greenhouse amenity design and educational programming plan development initiated in cooperation with the University of Minnesota, the MN Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, Sam Anderson, Director, MnTC, CWC Master Gardeners Ken Lueken and Joyce Mikesh, with guidance from CWC Extension Coordinator Jackie Froemming, Jim Chamberlin with Happy Dancing Turtle of Pine River, and the U of M College of Design Professors and Interns.

Year 3, 2016: General Population Clients:

  • MnTC Garden Program received a Crow Wing Energized Sustaining Grant to convert existing in-ground growing beds into raised bed growing areas.
  • General population clients converted in-ground beds into framed raised beds
  • Margaret Fuller, MnTC Dining Hall Supervisor, and clients revamped vegetables and herb growing list to increase most needed produce, introduce more disease resistant varieties, and eliminate less popular items.
  • General population clients planted, cared for, and harvested the higher yield, improved vegetables and herbs grown.
  • Canadian Red Rhubarb starter plants set in.
  • Clients guided through ongoing process of structural pruning of the grape vines

Year 4, 2017:

Bonnie-Shipman-Banks, LADC/Outpatient Supervisor, and MN Adult and Teen Challenge “Overcomers Group” Clients completed the following gardening:

  • backfilled soil into converted in-ground growing beds
  • Spring: All raised bed soils amended with aged manure and soil to increase texture and nutrients
  • New Asparagus beds established/planted.
  • Clients planted, cared for, and harvested a bumper crop of vegetables and herbs
  • First reliable blueberry crop: used for table eating, and delicious blueberry cheesecake by Matt
  • MnTC clients assisted DNR fencing expert Nick Reindel (Retired), and Master Gardener Ken Lueken with installing deer fence posts and deer fencing around the Discovery Woods Montessori school garden. School staff and students were ecstatic to begin their gardening curriculum in the spring of 2017.

Year 5, 2018:

Bonnie-Shipman-Banks, Outpatient Supervisor, and “Overcomers Group” Clients completed:

  • prepped growing sites and planted an additional eleven, mixed variety hardy apple trees, completing the MnTC Orchard. All apple and other fruit trees are wire fence protected from deer and rabbits.
  • Clients revamped vegetables and herbs growing list with the Dining Hall manager to grow new varieties and cultivars. Clients planted, cared for, and enjoyed another bumper crop harvest.
  • Clients were guided in structural pruning of the MnTC grape vines
  • Clients were instrumental in dis-assembling an old bed frame, moving native plants, constructing a new native raised nursery bed, backfilling soil, and replanting native plants (in the rain!) on the east end of the Arboretum’s Gardening 101 Youth garden.
  • Clients also assisted Nick Reindel (DNR, retired fencing expert), in setting deer fence posts in the Northland Arb Gardening 101 expansion garden.

Year 6, 2019:

  • Bonnie Shipman-Banks, Outpatient Supervisor, and “Overcomers Group” and other new clients are planning, and ordering plants and seeds for the upcoming growing season. Planting is set for mid to later May.
  • A comprensive drip irrigation system for the vegetable garden, native pollinator beds and the orchard is slated to be installed this spring, under the guidance of CWC Master Gardeners.
  • The Clients and CWC Master Gardeners this summer and fall are installing the perimeter edging and other anchor amenities for the Outdoor Counseling Garden Rooms. Three garden rooms are planned, including solar water features, with seating for 16 in each of two main garden rooms, set amongst native and other high scented, and soothing visual and textural perennial varieties. An extensive Monarch Way-station, perennial nursery beds, and wildlife habitat plants are planned in 2019-2020-2021.
  • The new MnTC garage-maintenance and wood shop construction near the garden area began in the fall of 2018, with completion proposed by the fall of 2019. An onsite educational working greenhouse that will be attached to the new garage complex, is the phase 3 project in near future years.
  • MnTC clients continue valued and greatly appreciated volunteerism in many ways at the Northland Arboretum, especially with the Gardening 101 expansion garden. The Gardening 101 expansion garden raised bed frame building, backfilling with soil, and assisting DNR fencing expert Nick Reindel (Retired) will be completed in the spring of 2019. Area community and school gardens would not exist without the clients superior workmanship.

MnTC Programming Information:

  • Central Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge

2424 Business Hwy 371

Brainerd, MN 56401