A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Monroe's Own Food-Sharing Garden

As many of our readers already know, Alpine, Oregon (where we live) has been host to a unique community garden for a year (and is heading into its second). What makes this 'sharing' garden unique is that, instead of many separate plots, that are rented by individuals, this garden is one large plot, shared by all. All materials and labor are donated - either by local individuals and families, or through grants from businesses and non-profit organizations. The food we grow is shared amongst those who have contributed in some way as well as others who are in need in our community. All surplus is donated to our local food-bank. No one is ever charged money for the food that is grown. We like to think of it as a 'Stone Soup' garden where each of us donates a little of our surplus --whether in time or materials--to grow a sense of community, and plenty of food to share. 

These are teaching gardens as well. All food is grown without use of herbicides and pesticides. We rely on heavy mulching (to minimize the need for watering and weeding) and compost (made from yard and kitchen waste) to fertilize the soil. People who are interested in this project, if local, can join us in the garden and learn by doing. Our more distant supporters can follow these blog posts to pick up gardening tips and ideas, or learn how to start a Sharing garden in your own neighborhood.

         Tilling in maple leaves between rows of cover-crop.
In mid-February 2010, Alpine's neighbor, Monroe, became host to a Sharing Garden as well. We are extremely excited about this development. While Alpine's garden is about 80' x 100', we paced out Monroe's garden at 110' x 175'. Between the two gardens this brings us up to about 2/3 of an acre of rich and fertile soil. In addition, at the new site, we've got a 20' x 30' metal building built on a concrete pad which can store the garden tools and be a workshop space on rainy days. It'll be mighty toasty in the summer! and we're already designing an indoor food-drying system against the south wall. The well, at its peak, flows at 100 gallons a minute! Yes folks, you read that right! We won't have to worry about the garden drying out just as its coming into its fullest harvest time.
                                            Harvest 2009.
Another great feature of this site is its location. Monroe is a town of about 700 people. It's got a main-street with some shops. Monroe hosts about half a dozen churches and the elementary, middle and high-schools that serve this rural region. Our garden site is located in the empty field directly between the elementary school and the Methodist church that houses the food-bank where we take our surplus produce.  This way, it will be easy to involve school-age children and give them access to a garden for hands-on learning opportunities. Also, the recipients of our bounty at the food-bank can make a direct connection between the food they're eating and where it comes from. We've already begun drumming up some volunteer interest from those who benefit from the food-bank. As the Alpine garden has few people within walking distance, Monroe's garden site makes it more convenient for volunteers to participate.

As we mentioned in the last post. The Monroe garden is sited on the property of Chester Crowson, a long-time valuable member of the local community. At 86, Chester has been a bus-driver for over 40 years and has the distinction of being Oregon's oldest bus-driver on record. He currently owns the bus company that provides transport for all the local children to and from school. If the funding comes through, he'll be providing bus-service to the young people in our pilot program this summer, to bring them to and from the Alpine site. We are deeply grateful for Mr. Crowson's open-handed and good-hearted support for this garden project. Thank you Chester!

P.S To our local friends and supporters: We're going to need someone with a large tractor and tiller to do the initial ground-breaking in Monroe once the soil drains. If you'd like to volunteer, or know someone who can, please give us a call at 847-8797. Chris and Llyn

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