[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                    August 22, 2008

BOSS garden plots cultivate 
produce, friendships

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

The Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) garden plots on Fort McCoy’s South Post have helped foster a sense of community on the installation while also saving participants money in a time of increasing food costs.

Photo: A view of the Fort McCoy Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers garden plots on South Post. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
A view of the Fort McCoy Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers garden plots on South Post. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Mike Napsey, Fort McCoy BOSS adviser, said the BOSS program helps organize the program on about one-half acre of land on South Post. The installation and the BOSS program provide the 20-by-20-foot plots, garden implements to work the soil and water needed for the plants. Fencing also is erected around the garden area to keep out deer.

"Participants provide the time and tender loving care to grow the plants," he said. "They’re having fun doing this. When they come to look at their gardens and work on them, this is the chance they can talk to each other and share their experiences."

The program begins in the spring when BOSS garden plots are advertised. Napsey said the garden plots are one of BOSS’ core programs and also help support the Army Family Covenant. 

BOSS members, including Napsey, help prepare the area for use. This has included tilling the land, installing spigots to bring water to the area, and staking out plots, he said.

BOSS personnel also have been instrumental in helping to bring top soil and, this year, fertilizer to the area with input and knowledge provided by the University of Wisconsin system. Napsey said the program has been coordinated with the installation’s environmental personnel to ensure it meets all Army environmental standards.

Sgt. Maj. Merrel Gage of the 1st, 274th Regiment of the 70th Division, 84th Training Command (Leadership Readiness) said it was the second year he has participated in the BOSS Garden program.

"I was crazy not to do it before then," Gage said. "(Because) of the low cost of renting the plot — they provide you with a fenced-in area, garden tools and water — you can get a high return on your investment. It’s an incredible deal and benefit."

Gage said gardening also provides him and many other personnel an incredible stress reduction from the normal frenetic pace of their workdays.

The BOSS garden participants often meet the other personnel and their family members when they’re taking care of their garden plots, Gage said. Everyone became friends and exchanged their gardening tips to help all the gardens reach their maximum potential.

Many members took extra produce from their gardens and shared it with the personnel they worked with, he said.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Patrick Rasmussen (Criminal Investigation Division), his wife, Ruth, and their children enjoyed their first year of using the garden.

"We both grew up gardening and always have had a garden of our own," Ruth Rasmussen said. "It is very convenient since we live in South Post Housing — a short walk to the garden every day."

The garden has both economic and social benefits for family members, she said. The garden allows them to get to know their neighbors a little bit better, and they also get tips from their fellow gardeners. The Rasmussens expect to save money on vegetables once they can harvest those crops.

"It’s just been a great experience, and (our family) can’t wait to have a garden again next year," she said.

Mark Dennis, a Navy veteran and member of the Fort McCoy community, said he was impressed with how well the garden is laid out, the addition of fertilizer and black soil, and the availability of garden tools, etc.

Although Dennis has farmers and gardeners in his family he has never planted a garden on his own. He said he has had mixed success in his first year. The onions and potatoes seem to be doing OK, but he has learned that plants need to be properly spaced and the weeds have to be kept down or they will take over a garden.

The other gardeners have readily given him tips about improving his plantings.

"It has made for an enjoyable hobby — a great way to de-stress after work or commune with nature on the weekends," Dennis said. "I’d like to do it again next year — and hopefully do better at it!"

Napsey said the Fort McCoy Child , Youth and School Services program contributed bird houses, which have attracted birds to the area to help control pests.

After any BOSS program Soldiers who want to use the plots are served, the plots are made available to everyone in the community including Soldiers and their families, military retirees, government employees — both contracted and noncontracted — and Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center residents, if they’re interested, Napsey said.

"With the way the price of vegetables is going up, productive people can save themselves a lot of money," Napsey said. "The area also is convenient for the personnel who live on South Post, including those who will live in the new South Post houses when they open."

For more information about the program, call Napsey at (608) 388-6588.


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