Brooklyn resident shares passion for garden education

Amber Burke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Master Gardener Heather Lynch has a passion for helping people develop a plan for their garden and discovering the joy of raising their own food.

"It is important to me to educate people how to grow their own food because there can be such a disconnect from people understanding where their food comes from when they buy everything at the grocery store," said Lynch of Brooklyn, Wis.

Heather and Dylan Lynch stand outside their fenced-in vegetable garden on their property in Brooklyn, Wisconsin

Lynch and her husband Dylan recently hosted a conservation land walk to showcase their nine-acre property which includes a variety of vegetable gardens, a diverse fruit and nut orchard, a flock of chickens and native prairie plants and grasses. The event was held in collaboration with Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) and Green County’s Soil Sisters organization. 

WiWiC created conservation land walk events across the state for the public to explore goals that landowners can aspire to, as well as learn about how conservation practices can lead to improving water, building soil and sequestering carbon to mitigate climate change.

The Lynches purchased their property less than two years ago. "As new landowners, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to work with local resources to both better understand the land and develop a long-term conservation plan," Lynch says. 

Green County Soil Conservationist, Tonya Gratz, also joined the walk in order to help provide the Lynches with a conservation plan to improve their land over time. Gratz also assists other members of the Soil Sisters organization by helping organize their own goal setting for land stewardship, while also helping them access resources and cost-sharing ideas from conservation agencies. 

"As a conservation professional for twenty years, my greatest joy comes from facilitating a land walk with a beginning landowner or perhaps even someone who has lived on their land for decades but never had the opportunity to really understand all the natural wonders going on. Through working with the women in this Cohort, I see their eyes light up and minds start to think and plan for long-term conservation on their land as they go through this process, which adds up to a healthier landscape and community for all in Green County," Gratz said.

Tonya Gratz, Soil Conservationist for the Green County Land & Water Conservation Department analyzes one of the trees on Lynch's property.

Since 2019, the Brooklyn couple have worked together to install a variety of gardens including raised-bed kitchen gardens, straw bale gardens, vertical gardens and container plantings in order to effectively live off their land and eat mostly what they grow themselves. 

According to Lynch, they eat something that they grow themselves every day of the year. Dylan has built "cold frames," utilizing pieces of polycarbonate which provide a greenhouse effect to insulate their gardens over the winter. They enjoy sharing their garden harvests and colorful eggs with friends and family, and continue to work towards sharing their love of homegrown food with others.

In addition to utilizing the fresh produce, Lynch does a lot of preserving, canning, making sauces, drying herbs and creating seasoning mixes. "We try to use whatever we have available and cook with it every day," she says.

According to Lynch, she has always been passionate about local, seasonal produce and is dedicated to using her backyard to grow as much of her own food as possible for the past eight years. She has her UW-Extension Master Gardener certification, and enjoys volunteering at a food pantry garden, teaching youth how to grow fresh produce and donate their harvests directly to local food pantries.

She also provides consultations for anyone who wants to start a garden or just needs some advice on how to make their garden more healthy and productive. She shares her gardening adventures, seasonal meals and unique preserves on her interactive Instagram feed: green.haven.gardens.

Heather Lynch explains starting some of her plantings utilizing a winter sowing process using plastic containers.

"I also like to support local farmers and purchase meat products from neighbors," she said. 

In addition, she tries to educate others on buying food from area growers, "instead of going to the grocery store for everything," Lynch says. "It is fun for me to show people how delicious their food can be while eating fresh and seasonal locally-grown food."

Although she is still unsure of her overall long-term goals, Lynch would like to come up with an effective way to deliver educational resources in order to make growing food more accessible for people 

"I feel like people are easily overwhelmed over the thought of putting in a garden. It is gratifying to help people get started and assist them in coming up with a plan that is best for their individual situations," she said.

Lynch is excited about continuing to work with WiWiC, as well as participating in more events and workshops with the Green County Soil Sisters including classes entitled "Gardening 101" and "Gardening for Flavor."

WiWiC is a state-wide collaborative effort led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Wisconsin Farmers Union, Renewing the Countryside and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).  A three-year multi-faceted project funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),