Dell Rapids Healthy Hometown Initiative

The city of Dell Rapids along with other community members have been meeting with Wellmark and discussing actions that can bring about a healthier community. The “Healthy Hometown” initiative looks to identify and make happen actions that can improve the overall health of the community.  An event was held August 16th at County Fair in Dell Rapids.  County Fair and Avera had teamed to offer taste testing and healthy recipes to the County Fair customers.  Customers were able to learn about using avocados in their diet.

Another discussion has been to have a community garden.  “The community garden is part of a larger Healthy Communities Project,” Dan Ahlers explained.  “Many community members are working on this.  It involves people from the city, the chamber, the business community and anyone who has wanted to volunteer for the group.  All different facets of the community that want to be involved to help make Dell Rapids a healthier place.”  Currently, the Healthy Community Project is looking for public spaces.

“We are looking at the area down by the old warming house down by the river,” Ahlers stated.  “The warming house could be used as a community tool shed where people can come in and do their planting and dirt work.  We are looking for volunteers to help with organizing the garden, help us decide what it will look like, how we do the plots, and things like that.”

There has been several requests for a community garden.  “This is certainly something that lends itself to the Healthier Communities,” Ahlers said.  “It provides opportunity for the community to get involved.  There is certainly a benefit to it.   It allows the community to have an opportunity to grow their own vegetables, play with new gardening techniques, and there is an educational component to it as well.  There is a lot of potential.”  Dell Rapids is in the early stages of the community garden, but looks forward to seasons to come.

The expansion of the bike trail is another step towards a healthier community.  With the help of the community, donations, and grants, Dell Rapids is moving forward with several additions.  “The trail existed before this Healthy Communities group,” Ahlers said.  “You can see how it is part of the discussion with questions like, ‘Do we have water dispensers along the way?  Do we have benches we can put along the way?  What will enhance that trail and make it even better?’”

The Healthy Community Group focuses on everything that would help make Dell Rapids a healthier community.  “It’s all about making your small town a better place to live, creating opportunities, and it’s about what makes each little town special,” Ahlers stated.  “We are reaching out for volunteers to assist us with this program.”

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Justin Weiland at City Hall, Mayor Tom Earley or Dan Ahlers.


What is a community garden?

  • A community garden is typically a public space where community members plant and harvest vegetables/and or fruits for their own use.  Frequently, community gardens are owned/managed by a city, and plots are rented to residents to plant and harvest with an annual fee.  Sometimes, organizations such as faith-based organizations, senior centers, or schools may plant a community garden for use by their organization.  Some community gardens are planted and maintained completely by volunteers and the harvest is shared with community members and/or donated to a local food pantry.

What are some of the health benefits of a community garden?

  • It is expected community gardens can provide increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables, increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and increased physical activity.  Furthermore, a community garden gives people an opportunity to socialize with neighbors and other community members.  If fruits and vegetables are given to a food pantry or shared with other community members, people who may otherwise not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables could have the opportunity to eat these foods.

What does it take to start a community garden?

  • If enough people in a community/neighborhood/organization are interested in starting a community garden, the first step is to form a community workgroup where decisions can be made about where a garden might best be located, how would the land be obtained, what type of garden beds would be utilized, what are the estimate expenses, how would funds be raised, what kind of policies are needed, as well as provide oversight of the ongoing day-to-day operations of the garden.  It would be important for there to be a broad range of stakeholders with a vested interest in gardening on the committee, including people with gardening expertise and experience as well as people who want to learn and/or actively participate in the process.  Anyone is welcome to participate.

In the past there has been interest in starting a community garden.  We have the opportunity to explore this option as part of the Dell Rapids Healthy Hometown initiative.  We need community volunteers to help us develop and implement an action plan.  If you are interested in helping, please contact Justin Weiland, City Administrator at or 605-428-5926 for more information.

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Tammy Chamley, Managing Editor
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Dells City Journal
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