The “Spirit of Community” in the Garden
Most community gardens that I’ve had the privilege of being part of, or seen elsewhere, are designed to rent to individuals who may not have adequate space to grow a garden where they live. What they harvest is theirs to do with what they choose. Most do it for their own family’s needs, and some gardeners donate a part of their harvest to others in their community.
The Brownsville Community Gardens are unique. In addition to renting spaces out to members of the community, a part of the community garden is dedicated to growing vegetables to be donated, in part, to various organizations in our community such as the Senior Center, Sharing Hands or Meals on Wheels. How fortunate our community is to have such a “sharing garden!”
From August to October 2013 more than 1,000 lbs. of food was donated to the senior center and the senior meals in Brownsville.
Although not as much has been planted this year due to a shortage of volunteers, so far the Calapooia Food Alliance (CFA) – the umbrella organization that oversees the gardens and the Saturday Market – has donated 150 lbs. of food mainly to the senior meals program. Because one of the community gardeners donates a fair amount of food to the senior center, a smaller amount from the sharing garden has been taken there.
Coming harvests include kale, lettuce, radishes, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, a variety of squash, beets, turnips, green beans, cabbage and corn. A corn roast for the community is being planned at the garden for later in the season. Look for more information about that in future columns.
The garden requires an unbelievable number of hours of labor. Thanks to the short list of dedicated volunteers, more than 1,250 hours have been donated so far this year.
In addition to donating vegetables, some of it is sold at the Saturday market to help offset costs the garden incurs over the course of each season; tools, seeds, irrigation supplies, signage, manager stipend, organic pest controls, ads in the Times and much more. Thanks to the city of Brownsville for augmenting water costs and the school district for the space, The CFA is able to offer the benefits of a community garden.
It takes more dollars than most people realize too, some of which comes from fundraising and some directly out of the pockets of the dedicated board members (about 5 or 6 persons), who put forth almost all of the effort and do almost all of the work both at the garden and the market. Fortunately, this year we received two small grants from the Brownsville Community Foundation to purchase picnic tables for the garden and the farmer’s market.
Fundraising is probably the most important part of what makes this garden happen. One way we do that is by offering a monthly “Munch Night” where community members are invited to partake of a home cooked meal prepared by the garden’s board (again, at their own out-of-pocket expense). Following the meal, a thought-provoking film is shown with a lively discussion afterwards. A donation of $10 per person is appreciated.
Another way we raise dollars is from vendors at the farmer’s market and by selling some of the extra harvest from the community sharing gardens. As I said, more often this food is donated to local organizations, but sometimes, when it is available, we sell it at the market. Supporting our Saturday Farmer’s Market is helping support this community-oriented endeavor.
We firmly believe in what we are doing, which is to enlighten our community of the importance of growing our own food without the use of chemicals, buying as much as possible from local sources and eating healthy. The more independent we are from outside food sources, the better. Donating the veggies we raise at the sharing gardens is icing on the cake.
Managing a garden like this is no easy task. It takes the “Spirit of Volunteerism” for an ongoing endeavor like a community garden to be successful. Those of us who are dedicated do the best we can with the resources we have. We donate what we can to those in need and hope that, in return, what we do is appreciated, and that others in the community will step us to help.
Please help support the CFA’s effort to provide a community garden for our citizens by attending “Munch Night,” visiting the Farmer’s Market or giving us a hand in the garden. Volunteers gather on Blakely Avenue behind the school district office Thursday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon.
For more information, call garden manager Diane Remoir at 541-359-5898.