‘It’s literally feeding our community’: Postville diversity garden awaits relocation after property sale delay

Tomatoes grow in the Diversity Garden in Postville
Tomatoes grow in the Diversity Garden in Postville(Marlon Hall, KCRG-TV9)
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 5:32 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - For decades, a community garden in Postville has allowed hundreds in the community to grow food for free.

Last year, organizers donated over 800 pounds of food to the food bank. But a bid to buy the land has the garden’s status in limbo.

Judy Egeland runs Postville’s Diversity Garden. She says hundreds rely on the garden to grow food — with over 30 immigrants from El Salvador, Mexico and the Ukraine tending to it daily.

“I think 300 or 400 people depend on food, because they can [the] food,” Egeland said. “They said ‘We live on it through the winter.’”

Crystal Duffy, the project coordinator for Our Postville Community Heart and Soul says it’s a lifeline for many in the community.

“Our free and reduced lunch rate in Postville is about 97%, so our community is extremely impoverished,” Duffy said. “To me it seems so obvious, it’s literally feeding our community.”

But after 20 years, Egeland says she’s not sure what will happen to the garden next — after a business owner offered to buy the land the garden sits on.

The issue went in front of the city council at a meeting in November.

“We haven’t had this many people at a council meeting since I don’t remember,” Egeland said. “They had to set up some extra chairs.”

The city tabled the issue at the time.

Postville’s mayor, Dennis Koenig, says the garden isn’t moving anytime soon.

“Right now, it stands exactly how it was left,” Koenig said. “The city will not sell this piece of property until we can relocate the gardens.”

He says the city is looking into new locations. But Egeland is worried about relocating trees that have been on the property for decades.

“If a tree gets to a certain size, you’re not moving it. That - just God won’t let you do it,” Koenig said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t replant where you’re going.”

Egeland says this means the garden — and the community who runs it — would be starting over.

“This new spot I took them to, which we think they’re planning on for us, they could see it if it has a fence and water,” Egeland said. “There won’t be as big a garden, probably won’t feed their family for the winter each month.”