Local teen starts community garden at Constitution Park
POCATELLO — Fourteen-year-old Lexi Jorgenson has been described as Kind Community’s “mission in action,” according to Courtney Fisher, the organization’s president and founding director.
Recently, Lexi initiated Pocatello’s newest community garden project in Constitution Park on South Fifth Avenue. Called “Lexi’s Kind Garden,” Fisher said this initiative was exactly what Kind Community was looking for when the organization established Kind Clubs at the middle schools and charter schools throughout Pocatello and Chubbuck.
Lexi was 12 when she joined the Kind Club at Irving Middle School. She eventually became president of the club and helped build a small garden in front of the school. The club often met to talk about being kind and doing projects in their school, but Lexi wanted to expand into the community.
“I had seen homeless people over by Albertsons and other stores,” Lexi said. “And I thought, ‘If I started a community garden, then the less fortunate community members could pick vegetables and fruits from my garden and have more.’”
Lexi explained the idea to her mom, Nikki Jorgenson, who then recommended she contact Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad. For two weeks, Lexi gathered enough courage to send him an email.
“I don’t remember exactly what I said,” she laughs. “It was probably something really dorky, but he responded that it was a good idea and wanted an appointment with me.”
Blad met with Lexi in July 2016.
“I was so nervous that I wrote down a paragraph of the things I wanted to say, and after I got in there and read it, I thought, ‘Well, that definitely was too short,’” she said. “My mom was with me, thankfully, so she helped me along.”
She and the mayor then worked together to pick out possible spots for the garden. They decided on Constitution Park because it was the closest to Lexi’s home and it allowed her easy access so she could water and care for garden. It was too late that year to start planting seeds, so they tabled the idea until the spring.
In April, Lexi again contacted Blad and they arranged a meeting with the Parks and Recreation Department. On June 1, she presented her idea in front of the committee. She says that talking to people kept getting easier and easier.
“I had a big poster and just remembered stuff and talked this time,” she said.
A few days later, members of the Parks and Recreation Department invited Lexi to come to the park and help decide the exact location of the wooded garden boxes.
The city donated the land and removed the sod, but everything else fell on the 14-year-old’s shoulders. A friend at church, Skyler Aston, needed an Eagle Scout project, so he offered to build the four garden boxes for her. However, she was struggling to get the wood needed to build them.
“Everything was at a standstill,” Lexi said. “All the places I went to ask for wood wanted me to register as a non-profit organization, but I didn’t want to because you have to pay for a number and that’s only for a chance at money to get wood.”
Finally, a couple from her church donated the wood leftover from the construction of their barn. The boxes were built and put into place on Aug. 11.
At the suggestion of her father, Frank Jorgenson, Lexi approached Dykman Construction about donating dirt from one of their construction sites and they agreed.
On Aug. 19, her family and a few volunteers helped her haul 10 truck loads of dirt, and then shovel it into the boxes and begin planting.
The following week, on two different nights, some of her plants were either moved or ripped out and thrown on the grass.
“I was really upset about that,” she said. “People have stepped in the dirt in the boxes, but I had already figured on that. I planned on vandalism, but I didn’t plan on how soon it would start and how much already.”
But the resolute teenager added, “I’m not quitting on it! It took me a lot of effort to get those boxes there.”
Lexi goes every day to water and work in her garden. She is currently working on putting up the sign donated by Spudnik Equipment Company. She’s also spreading the word to build support for her project.
Kind Community, an organization that works to embrace a vision of the greater, kinder good in the Pocatello/Chubbuck area, is helping her obtain grants to pay for paint and other improvements.
“Lexi did all the leg work,” Fisher said. “She contacted and worked with the mayor and secured the land. We want to help see her vision come to fruition. There are all kinds of grants for projects like this.”
Service has been a part of Lexi’s life long before her Kind Garden. For 2 1/2 years, Lexi’s family rose early in the morning to do seven paper routes. Her mom said that Lexi and her older sister, Mallori, decided to also carry a shovel so that they could clear snow off the porches of clients along their routes.
Nikki has numerous reasons why the family works so hard and makes service a priority.
“I have epilepsy and that has made it really difficult to get employment of any kind, and my husband has a heart condition, so we’ve had to think outside the box to provide for five kids,” she said. “We try to find different ways to help other people who have struggles.”
To make ends meet, Frank runs a handyman service and Nikki founded Snake River Doodles, a service/therapy animal organization.
Now that she is a freshman at Century High School, Lexi hopes to join the Key Club and start a Kind Club at her new school. She later plans on attending Idaho State University because she said, “I’m kind of addicted to becoming a third-grade teacher.”
But for now, Lexi is focused on her garden. Next year she aspires to grow strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, corn and melons in her boxes.
She said Changing Seasons Nursery will contribute some of the plants and her brother, Chandler, a member of Future Farmers of America, is helping to teach her how to grow them. She has a vision of putting in five more boxes, but she said, “I want to see what happens with these four boxes first.”
Lexi also claimed that she’s committed to caring for her garden forever.
“If I move, I will pass the responsibility on to someone else,” she said. “Eventually, I would like the community to take it over and water it, but for now, it’s all me.”