How Does Your Garden Grow?

The vision started four years ago. “We were originally working with the city of Livingston to develop community gardens close to the cemetery, so we got very involved and formed a nonprofit to help fund it,” says Linda Mahr, one of the originators of the Livingston Community Garden movement.

Errol Schumann, owner of Bozeman-based New West Landscapes, designed the gardens. Outside Bozeman asked the sustainable-landscaping advocate a few questions about how he pulled it off.

How he got hooked up with the Livingston Community Garden:
I got a call this spring from the Western Sustainability Exchange, saying "Hey, I’ve got a project that would be perfect for you." Basically they volunteered the land for this satellite startup. I met them the next evening, and within three weeks we had the gardens done. Our goal was to have it plantable by the first of June.

The design process:
It started with asking questions about what our goals and objectives were and figuring out what resources we had available to make it happen in that short timeframe and a low budget. And then a lot of site analysis. Measuring up how the site would look, measuring out how the sun and various other energies would go to the site, thinking about traffic, how it will all work together; I also studied other comparable community gardens in Bozeman to understand relative plot sizes and rental fees.

I gave a first proposal to the group and they all liked it. The second design is what we ended up going with, and that involved myself and Linda and a whole group of us soliciting goods and materials and trying to get things wholesale or through donations and coordinating a bunch of volunteers to get together at the same time and same place.

Why community gardens are important:
It’s huge—it’s our food and it’s a huge thing to do for sustainability and our carbon footprint. We take things for granted too much here. What else is really awesome about this project is that it builds a community, brings people together with a common vision, and tries to make our community better.

A really cool thing is that one of the plots is rented to a catering business a half a block away down the alley and they actually grow food that they use for their business; it’s all about keeping it local.

Who can use the gardens?
It’s open to anyone that wants to rent a plot; it allows people who aren’t homeowners or live in a condo that don’t have the opportunity and chance to get connected with the land and grow their own food. Myself and my cousin are sharing a plot, and he’s able to water it whenever it needs it.

How does this garden help people understand food?
It’s an awesome opportunity for education. Probably the most rewarding thing was when we had 58 YMCA students come out to visit our garden. To have these kids help us move mulch around and compost—they were really excited and engaged, learning about compost, organic food, water quality, nutrition, and their community.

What's going to happen to the gardens?
The architecture class at MSU created some beautiful imagery for the bigger vision of the garden. Anyone who wants to come out; the more the merrier. I’d like to see more involvement from younger adults. We need funds, we need more people, and anyone that wants to be involved or join, that would be awesome.

To learn more about the Livingston Community Garden, located at 215 S. 3rd in Livingston, visit or call 222-7307.