By Jean Allen

Retired from 23 years as a radio DJ, and with time on his hands, Michael Dalton became concerned about developing a sustainable food source for kids in the Great Falls community, mainly children with insecure financial resources available to their families. He is now the non-profit project supervisor of Great Falls’ first large-scale orchard and garden—two acres of parkland west of the Flower Farm.

After obtaining a lease on the property, he recruited volunteers, obtained grant money, built gardens in raised beds, and developed a compost system. Now going into their 11th year, the Gardens from Garbage program involves more than 200 boys and girls who raise up to 4,000 pounds of fresh vegetables each season.

The mission of the Gardens from Garbage is: “Growing healthy kids; growing healthy food.”

The kids come from the Cameron Family Center, the Salvation Army, and the Boys and Girls Club. In 2020, they are welcoming athletes from Special Olympics Montana. This amazing program scores a huge victory for participants, influencing them for a lifetime by teaching them to grow and eat their own vegetables, plant flowers, and have a fun place to run around and play. Each season, they do all the prep work and host at least three picnics. They even bake breads in solar ovens.

This wonderful program teaches kids how they can be informed, educated, and learn where a sustainable and healthy food source can come from. Children are instructed and guided in growing their own gardens, preparing and eating healthy snacks, learning about composting, pollinators, nutrition, and more. All the local produce is donated back to their organizations to use in their kitchens to feed club participants and their families.

Gardens from Garbage also has five beehives and harvests its own honey. The honey is raw, natural, and direct from the hives. It is distributed for a donation to the program.

For more information, call (406) 868-2359.