The Anderson Farm County Park market garden project is at capacity for growers.

It only took a few days to reach that benchmark, Anderson Park Friends, Inc. president Roe Parker told the Observer. He called it “a full house.”

The market garden, which launched May 9, has 23 plots, located at 805 Union Road, with two to three gardeners occupying each. Parker said a large proportion of growers comprises low-income to middle-class individuals and families. Other gardeners include churches, nonprofits and businesses.

It also includes two one-acre plots for the Oregon Area Food Pantry garden along Union Road.

The goal of the market garden project is to provide organic produce to people who continue to struggle to put quality food on the table, espcially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout. Growers were able to lease each plot for $50.

Already sprouting are varieties of beans, peppers, peas, bok choy and more produce.

He told the Observer in May a primary need exists in Dane County for more fresh produce, and that it was an ongoing problem even before the pandemic.

Parker pointed to University of Wisconsin-Extension surveys that report only 23% of Wisconsin adults and 20% of high school students consume the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

While influences on consumer food choices are increasingly complex, it is clear not everyone has the same opportunities to access healthy foods. Parker said there’s also a trend of increasing consumer demand for organic produce.

The market garden is a pilot for a larger project that will commence in 2021, Parker said, involving more growers and increased gardening education efforts.

The larger garden will be modeled after that of Silverwood County Park, located in the Town of Albion southeast of Madison, and the Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability in Verona.

Each grower was required to sign a lease and attend two orientations upon leasing a plot. Parker said growers also were screened for their gardening experience and ability to manage a plot of the aforementioned size.

Gardeners are expected to help maintain pathways between each garden plot. The pathways are 12-feet in width, Parker said.

They are also responsible for all equipment, tools and trash, he said, and limited self-help water will be available.

And of course, Parker said all gardeners must follow the regulations of DCP, including park hours, and follow directions of the agricultural director and park rangers. That includes protocols for physical distancing and wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment.

Though plots are at capacity, Parker said APF continues to search for volunteers to help growers.

Prospective volunteers can apply at andersonparkfriends.org.

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.