Mankato’s Living Earth Center faces uncertain future

The Living Earth Center in Mankato manages the city's community gardens and farms, but the future of the organization is unknown.
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2022 at 7:09 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Every week, volunteers for the Living Earth Center harvest fresh produce from Blue Earth County’s community farm in Mankato, and donate the produce to local food shelves and community programs.

The work is part of an agreement with the county, the Living Earth Center runs and maintains the community farm, and excess produce gets donated to those who need it.

The ECHO Food Shelf said that donation efforts like these are crucial to getting necessary food onto shelves.

“Well most of all of our fresh produce comes from farmers, from the Farmer’s Market, from like you said, the Living Earth Center, and then we bag it all, and then they can have pretty much all the fresh produce that they really want, and it all goes very fast,” ECHO volunteer Suzanne Lewis said.

The Living Earth Center is currently partnered with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and has its office and larger community garden on the Good Counsel campus.

The sisters are departing from Mankato, however, and the future of the Living Earth Center is now up in the air.

“We have, let’s see, 120 gardeners up there, two acres, it’s just a wonderful place for people to garden. Unfortunately, the Sisters have sold their property there, and we’re not sure what’s going to happen. If we’re not allowed to stay there, we would like to find another place in town, or convenient for people to continue gardening,” said Jim Ackil of the Living Earth Center.

The county-owned community farm will continue running as normal, but the much larger community garden at Good Counsel may not be around for much longer. The sisters announced back in March they’ll be moving to Shakopee.

It was planned they start moving this month. It hasn’t been announced who potential buyers of the convent might be, and until that point, they won’t know what their future holds in this community garden.

“The gardens are really important. I mean we have, as I mentioned, 120 gardeners up there, many of them are families with children, and some need the food, others are doing it for enjoyment. But it’s important I think to the community that we find another place,” Ackil said.

The Living Earth Center will be hosting an open house at the community farm this Saturday from 1-4 p.m. where community members can play games and make apple cider and caramel apples while learning about the community farm and gardening.