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Victory Garden 2.0

Two local greenhouses in Brown County want everyone to know they are open for business during a spring planting season that has been termed as the phenomenon “Victory Garden 2.0.”

This spring’s planting season has an unusual twist – a consumer-run on garden supplies, seed, plants and fruit trees that are selling out. The first Victory Garden was back in the 1940s, during wartime, when food was scarce and people turned to growing their own gardens.

While the governor’s “Stay at Home” order led to many businesses shutting their doors, the greenhouse industry is blooming right now as demand is surprisingly healthy for anything edible in the backyard. Greenhouse space is shifting from flowers over to consumable plant sales.

“Even though the future is unknown, we can still plant vegetables and seeds,” said Jim Garcia, greenhouse manager at Grimm’s Gardens, located in rural Brown County, near Morrill.

Gardens are great learning tools for kids, and a stress reliever for adults. And, gardening is considered an “allowable” activity in line with Governor Laura Kelly’s Executive Order to stay at home until April 19. According to the governor’s orders, “engaging in outdoor activity, provided individuals maintain a distance of six feet from one another and abide by the 10-person limitation on gathering size” is an allowable exception to staying at home.

What better way to practice “social distancing” than to work on your succulent gardens, plant some fresh fruits and vegetables? And the local greenhouses are open for business! You can visit their garden centers, or or two local greenhouses are also offering delivery and curb-side pickup.

“People are allowed to plant gardens, get out and work in their yards,” said Christine Unruh, who owns Wolf River Nursery with her husband, Tim.

Wolf River, located just a few miles south of Hiawatha, has been busy preparing for what the Unruh’s hope is a good planting season. The temperatures have been soaring, perennials are peeping through clusters of leaves left over from last fall, grass is growing and the sunshine has been a welcome sight, offering some much-needed immune-boosting natural Vitamin D after the winter.

Although last weekend’s temperatures called for bringing plants inside – or at the very least covering them – due to a frosty upper 20s overnight temperature, it’s definitely obvious that Spring has Sprung.

So, gardening and planting flowers is a perfect activity, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, an agency that has been providing Kansans with up to date information daily. They encouraged people to get outside and partake in gardening or lawn work.

Unruh said a lot of people have some extra time on their hands – their place of employment may be closed, or their extracurricular activities in the evening put on hold for now.

“So people are trying to plant gardens,” she said.

Wolf River is stocked for the spring season, although Unruh said they have ran out of potatoes, but she is working to get more in.

Halfway across the county, employees at Grimm’s Garden Center are also busy getting their stock out for the season. Miranda Grimm said the hours will be remaining the same – to offer a wide window of opportunity for shoppers.

“We don’t want to shorten them and have a lot of people come at once,” she said. “So we are keeping them the same with the hopes that we will have a slow steady trickle of people and can keep social distancing protocols easily. It also helps that we have quite a few of our plants in an open air space.”

Grimm said employees have been working hard on disinfecting at the retail center, and are encouraging customers to use gloves and hand sanitizer (provided by the garden center), and only having one customer in the sales shed at a time. Landscaping crews are also still working, but Grimm said they are following social distancing protocols with customers and call ahead to let customers know the crews are coming. Grimm said if customers aren’t comfortable with landscaping crews working at their house during this time, they reschedule for a later date.

Grimm said the garden center in Hiawatha is also trying to keep regular hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. She said they are offering curbside pickup at their rural Hiawatha locations. Customers can call and they will put together an order.

“If they call us by noon, it will be ready by 2 p.m. that day, otherwise they can pick up the next day between 2-5 p.m.”

Grimm said they are planning to offer delivery services as well and will announce those details soon, or customers can call the garden center and discuss the options.

Wolf River Nursery is also planning to keep regular hours of 9-6 p.m., Monday through Saturday and will schedule after hour appointments with people who have special needs. Unruh said they will offer curbside pick-up and delivery in the Hiawatha area only Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call with questions.

Wolf River Nursery is located at 1460 195th Rd., Hiawatha; phone number (785) 742-9653; website or find them on Facebook.

Grimm’s Gardens is located at 2991 Goldfinch Rd., Hiawatha; phone number (785) 459-2586; website or find them on Facebook.

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Legislative Council overrules governor's order on mass gatherings, including religious services

On Wednesday, the Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 to overturn Gov. Laura Kelly’s newest executive order that specifically restricted the size of religious gatherings to 10 or less — citing a reason that the governor’s orders likely violated the state constitution.

The governor’s latest executive order was to take effect at noon on Wednesday — in light of the possibility of upcoming Easter services. While the majority of churches had taken it upon themselves to cancel public services — many going online to offer services — Gov. Kelly’s orders made it very specific. In addition, she limited funeral services to gatherings of 10 people or less.

This week’s numbers of cases have escalated daily, with 11 more deaths and an additional nearly 150 cases on Wednesday, Gov. Kelly announced at her live press conference that afternoon. She said her concern was for the health and safety of Kansans, and politics need to be set aside, as these recent moves were confusing for the citizens in a time when they needed solidarity by its leaders. She, along with Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials, also announced that some of the clusters of the virus they have been tracking has been linked to religious gatherings.

Governor Laura Kelly made this public statement on her Facebook page:

“This virus has been hard for all of us. As your governor, all I can do is take decisive steps to mitigate the damage, flatten the curve as quickly as possible, and prevent this virus from reaching its full, lethal potential.

That’s why all the difficult decisions I’ve made up to this point have been unavoidable, and absolutely crucial. That’s why I’m deeply disappointed that Republican leadership isn’t putting the health and safety of Kansas families first – including our faith communities.

At the end of the day, we are all in this together. So we have got to work together. Period. If we’re going to beat COVID-19, we must attack it with the same resolve — — united as Kansans.”

According to Associated Press reports, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said that while restricting in-person religious gatherings to counteract the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus is sound public health advice, the order likely violates the state constitutional and statutory protections for religious freedom and must not be enforced by arrest, prosecution, fines or imprisonment as a penalty for worshiping. Schmidt stated in a memorandum to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors statewide that Section 7 of the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of rights, as well as the state’s Preservation for Religious Freedom Act, both set strict limits on the authority of any state or local government authority, including the governor, to restrict the religious freedoms of Kansans.

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Out of the box ways to take part in recreation

As more and more events continue to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions, the Hiawatha Parks and Recreation Director is throwing some fun out-of-the-box activities out there for residents to take part in.

HP&R Director Stacy Jasper said the current emergency and cancellation of all recreational events is something that is challenging for her after a decade or more of planning activities for communities — here in Hiawatha and at her previous position for the City of Colby.

She had already launched into her plans for summer recreation — teeball, aquatic park, employment applications for concession and pool workers — along with already being knee-deep in hiring a new grounds staff member and getting underway with plans to ready the softball and baseball fields for spring school athletic events.

Then it hit the fan, so-to-speak. The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t just a concern for people in China and Italy. The coronavirus had hit the United States and was hitting hard. Suddenly, March Madness was gone, colleges and public schools were closing and the nation was in a state of emergency.

The City of Hiawatha joined other municipalities in immediately implementing COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines — closing the Fisher Center and City Hall to the public. This also included cancelling any and all recreation activities planned for the spring.

“This really was nothing I had ever dealt with in all my years in recreation and I admit it was challenging to try and come up with ideas for the community to do and stay in line with social distancing guidelines,” Jasper said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, people are encouraged to practice “social distancing” by staying 6 feet away from other people when engaging in an activity. On top of that, the governor issued a “stay at home” order for Kansans to adhere to — advising to not leave the house unless it was for an essential need.

Among the governor’s list of essential needs was outdoor exercise — but participants still needed to adhere to social distancing guidelines. In addition, gyms are closed, city parks are closed — so what is there to do?

Take it to the driveway — or the living room — or the kitchen!

Those are just a few of the places that Jasper has included in her many “stay-at-home” challenges for the HP&R public in Hiawatha.

Jasper said she has participated in some online Zoom meetings with other parks and rec directors across the state and over a couple hours the directors brainstormed about ways to keep their public active and engaged during the “stay at home” order — which for now remains in effect until April 19.

So right now, Jasper has 13 challenges on her HP&R Facebook page — including HP&R Homework, which offers a daily activity. Among the other activities are pet tricks, chalk art, a driveway trick shot (such as a crazy basketball shot — one person rode a horse up to make a basket), bit-moji fun, a driveway workout and her latest — peepthis and eggstravaganza, which focuses some fun crafties with the favorite marshmallow peeps and decorated eggs just in time for Easter.

“I am not encouraging people to go out and do these things with friends — but do them with your siblings and family members at home,” she said.

The HP&R community has embraced these many challenges and by submitting a video and tagging the HP&R hash tag, the videos and photos are now on social media for the community’s enjoyment.

The HP&R Homework advises a special activity each day of the week: Super Sunday, Make it Monday, Take a Trip Tuesday, Watch It Wednesday, think It Thursday, Foodie Friday and Selfless Saturday.

Jasper said creating these activities really has stretched her creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking in trying to keep the community active and entertained — focused on more positive activities — rather than the doom and gloom of thinking of a global pandemic.

“I really feel as essential as I ever have, as I want to provide a positive approach to this. It’s been so much fun to see what people come up with,” she said. “I also feel it’s really important at a time like this. There is so much uncertainty, and so many emotions people are feeling. I am trying to help take away the fear and anxiety by creating fun activities.”

Jasper’s goal is to continue offering activities weekly, by hitting on fitness, sports, education, family and art. She said these are also events that she can continue in the future, when the COVID-19 pandemic is over and people are back to ordinary activities, but are also looking for something extra fun to do.

In the meantime, her staff has been keeping very busy with a Fisher Center kitchen remodel that they initially tried to bid out, but at the time contractors were too busy to take on the task within the time frame the city had hoped. But once the “stay at home” orders went into place, and Jasper and her staff found a little extra time on their hands, they have been knee-deep in kitchen remodeling themselves.

Are they still preparing for summer activities? Yes and no, she said.

Some things are obviously on hold. Jasper said she stopped taking teeball applications, because doesn’t want to be in a position to have to make a lot of refunds if it doesn’t happen. She had accepted applications for summer work, but had to cancel interviews twice. She plans to possibly set up Facetime or Zoom interviews, but doesn’t have a timeline yet.

She said there is no magic date as to when they will know whether summer recreation will be happening. She said her staff is doing some preparations, but some things are on hold.

“There is just so much unknown right now,” she said.

The current “stay at home” order lasts until April 19, but even if that is lifted there could be other guidelines that stay in place — such as social distancing. It’s hard to play on a baseball or softball team, or hang out at the pool, and keep that social distance in place.

“We are on the tip of saving summer or canceling summer — that’s a big weight on our shoulders,” she said, noting that she doesn’t know when final decisions will be made. “But, of course, those decisions will be made for us, based on what the state decides.”

Jasper said it typically takes about a month and a half to prepare for summer rec activities and once the restrictions lift she and her staff may have to do it within a week or two, but she will do what she have to! She is hopeful that, at the very least, there will be only a late start to activities or a shortened season.

Keep your eye on the Hiawatha Parks and Recreation Facebook page to keep track of all of the fun events she has going on and for upcoming information about summer recreation.

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The Victory Garden Manual

When the first Victory Garden Manual was written in 1943 by James H. Burdett, it was easy to find reasons to grow your own food. It was wartime, and food was scarce. The available produce back in the day wasn’t always fresh nor the healthiest. Nearly 40 percent of all fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. were produced at home or in community victory gardens.

According to the National Garden Bureau website, Burdett founded the National Garden Bureau in 1920 as a way to enlist horticultural writers and broadcasters in the noble effort of mass education to create a population of gardeners. In the process, he improved the lives of citizens both in wartime and in times of peace. In celebrating 100 years with the National Garden Bureau, they are introducing Victory Gardening again with easy steps to grow your own garden.

Today’s Victory garden starts with eight steps.

1 — Know your growing zone.

2 — Make a list of what your family enjoys eating.

3 — Decide if these plants grow from seed or should be bought as a transplant.

4 — Plan your garden space accordingly.

5 — Know your garden and buy good quality garden soils and supplies.

6 — Follow recommended sowing and planting dates.

7 — Start composting: you can use vegetable scraps, or even your tea and coffee grounds!

8 — Attract beneficial pollinators with pollinator-friendly flowers.

You can find more information on Victory Gardens 2.0 on the National Garden Bureau website —

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Hiawatha Hospital in need of masks

The Hiawatha Community Hospital is asking for help from the community to provide homemade surgical face masks.

According to information provided by the hospital, there is a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) which have left medical facilities in need of more supplies.

One of those basic needs includes face masks.

Anyone who wants to help can sew a homemade face mask for the Hiawatha Hospital. The hospital has said they will accept any size or style. Masks should be made of cotton or flannel, contain two or three layers and should have elastic, string or ribbon ties.

If a person would like to help and does not have a pattern, the following is an online link that might be useful:

Contact the hospital at 742-6229 to make arrangements for delivery in the hospital parking lot.

“We appreciate all who are willing to make masks and are overhwlemed with gratitude for the community support!”

In addition, the Hiawatha Community Hospital said that the CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Go to for more information and see the hospital’s update on Page 9 of today’s paper or online at under the Local News tab.