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To your health, and how your garden grows: Natural perspective is foundation for group

Tonya Schmitt said she started the garden centered program to educate people on body, mind, spirit and community health. Rebecca Rudolph photo1 / 2
Gus Schmitt-Mischjke (left) and Paula Lugar are two Garden Adventurer participants who helped plant in the community garden. Submitted photo2 / 2

Health is not a new topic, but one that the leader of Garden Adventures said she looks to approach differently than other people might.

“Society has this viewpoint that what’s healthy isn’t any fun and is just too much work,” said, Tonya Schmitt, founder of Garden Adventurers.

“Life is supposed to be work,” she said, because it makes bodies stronger and minds smarter. “It can and should be fun.”

Garden Adventurers is “one leg” of holistic education Schmitt said she hopes to provide.

Although the garden that Garden Adventurers works in is located on the Unitarian Universalist Society (UUS) of River Fall’s property, N8010 Hwy. 65, Schmitt said the purpose of the classes are not to steer people to one religion or another.

She first had the idea for holistic education while teaching spiritual education at UUS, a class that introduced participants to a variety of different religions.

The new program has the goal of educating on a holistic approach by getting, “people involved across ages in things that are healthy in body, mind and spirit.”

This is done through activities like working in the church’s community garden, practicing yoga and meditation in the garden, and walking through a labyrinth, which is a path lined with high hedges.

Andy Altmann, Positive Alternative’s lead staff person, said she is introducing the home’s youth to the program because they are starting their own garden. Positive Alternatives is a foster group home for teenagers in River Falls.

“I’m just interested to see what it’s all about and if our kids will enjoy it or not,” Altmann said.
The yoga and mediation could be “soothing and therapeutic for them. I hope they’ll try it out once and learn to love it.”

“Whatever is healthy for you is good for the earth,” Schmitt said, “and visa versa.”

For this reason, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used on the garden.

Jens Gunelson is a member of the church and said he has been involved in its community garden for “many years.”

A community garden provides space for the people in the community, including UUS members and now Garden Adventurer members, to plant what they want, weed when they feel like it and harvest as they wish.

“Anybody can plant, anybody can weed, and anybody can take,” Gunelson said.

The idea is that it will take care of itself.

Schmitt said Gunelson had taken the leadership role though.

This year he introduced a no-till process to gardening, which involved working the manure into the soil a little, then laying a leaf ground cover. He said this simulated what would naturally occur.

Since the church is not sponsoring the program, Schmitt said she is looking for donations and grants because class involvement is free.

While there are other ways to donate, Davis and Diana Barnes, owners of Magic Bus Gardens, located southeast of River Falls in Beldenville, donated vegetable and herb plants, along with a few flower plants.

“People are really nice and willing to help,” said Diana Barnes. “We wanted to do something to give back because we feel that sense of community is very important.”

The group has about 10 regularly attending members.

“It’s not surprising for things to start slowly,” Schmitt said. “You build over time and for something to be sustainable, it usually does need to build over time.”

With grants and money from donations, she said she hopes to fund a full-time organizer.

“Programs in general,” she said, “if they’re entirely volunteer run, they tend to run their course a little faster than if there are some paid staff with some direction involved in it.”

Garden Adventurers is the first of the classes she wants to offer. Others include family yoga, sit and stretch yoga for seniors, and a mindful eating class.

“Healthy things are fun and there’s a whole lot more benefits than what you think,” Schmitt said. “Everyone is welcome here.”

For more information, contact Schmitt at