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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Importance of Local Food Self-Reliance

Those who are familiar with the Sharing Gardens know that we are motivated to guide people towards a model of local food-production, seed-saving, and Earth-friendly gardening techniques while increasing people’s sense of responsibility to assist those less fortunate members of our communities. 

In this eight minute video, physicist Vandana Shiva makes the observation that the highest incidence of hunger in the world shows up in rural and agricultural communities. The very people who should be most able to feed themselves have been forced, through commodity-trading and mono-cropping to abandon growing the diverse variety of foods needed for a nourishing diet. We see examples of this even here in the lush and fertile Willamette Valley of Oregon  where most of the local canneries closed down years ago and many farmers are making their livings growing such crops as grass-seed, animal feed and pumpkin seeds to ship to Asia.

Shiva says, “Access to food should be a basic human right.” 

Please take a few minutes to listen to this warm and intelligent woman connect the dots about GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), seed-saving, the rights and responsibilities of corporations and other important topics related to local food security.  We hope that it will help you to understand a little better ‘why’ we do 'what' we do at the Sharing Gardens.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter Projects Galore!

By Chris Burns
It’s been some time since we’ve written, and that might lead some of you to believe that there’s nothing going on in the Sharing Gardens at this time of the year. Some people have commented that “It must be great to have a break from all that garden work.”, or something to that effect. We can assure you all that although we are ‘chomping at the bit’ to start planting next Spring’s garden, we are enjoying a variety of projects that are keeping us happily busy through these colder and shorter winter days. We really DO enjoy what we do! We love to get out and rake leaves to use for soil-building, for example. It’s an activity that keeps us from turning flabby and depressed, We call it “Rakey Therapy.”

Thanks to some additional contributions of leaves from our local community, we now have almost 3/4‘s of the Monroe garden covered with leaves and have tilled them into the top few inches where they will provide a rich supply of nutrients for soil organisms and create a condition of high fertility for next year’s crops. Leaves need to be worked in during the Fall so that they have enough time to decompose. Otherwise, if they are put into the soil just before planting, it is very likely that they will pull too much nitrogen from the soil and result in withered and yellow looking starts.

Leaves need to be worked in during the Fall so that they have enough time to decompose. Chris, tilling in donated leaves, in between cover-crops.

Another project that we’ve taken on is the building of a 12 x 40 greenhouse in the Monroe Sharing Garden. (Please see our wishlist below.) We have two design ideas for its construction. Our first option would be to use two of those portable, tarp-covered parking structures like the ones that people buy at Costco. We often see them on people’s property, frames only, since the tarp coverings seem to deteriorate in a few years (see picture). We came up with another idea to build a greenhouse using bamboo, of all things, and it just so happens that Betty Briggs of the Harrisburg Gleaners contacted a friend of hers, John Sundquist who has a farm with bamboo “jungles” that are in serious need of management and selective thinning. Llyn and I have become great friends with John and have been given permission to harvest as much as we need.

Carport-cover used as greenhouse frame.

Aside from the Plan ‘B’ to build a greenhouse with some of the larger material, it can be used in a variety of ways in the garden such as bean and pea trellises, A-frames and trellises for tomatoes, garden stakes, teepees for climbing beans, garden gates, shade houses, you name it. Since the first seeds are ready to start in mid-February, (onions and peas) that doesn’t give us much time to ‘get ‘er done’ as they say. Having a greenhouse in the garden will afford us the opportunity to offer classes and workshops that I’m sure many people will enjoy while learning a lot of valuable methods that can be applied in their own home gardens. And of course, we plan to have extra starts to give out, as well as enough to offer ‘by donation’ to those who can afford to contribute financially as a way to help the project.

Bamboo has many versatile uses

And just a reminder, anyone can make tax-deductible donations to the Sharing Gardens. We can always use operating capital, so if you are in need of a “write-off’ and want to help support a great cause that helps local folks in need, please go to our website, and click on the ‘Donate” button in the upper right-hand corner; or send contributions through regular mail to the address given, and we will be sure to mail you a receipt, with our deepest appreciation. Any other donations of materials, tools and so on, are also eligible for tax receipts.

Having fun and learning in the greenhouse. Germaine and Larry Hammon with Llyn Peabody

However you choose to celebrate the ‘Holy-days’ Llyn and I want to wish you all the very best of times spent with friends and family, and thank all of you who have helped us to help others. Keep up the good work and together we can alleviate food insecurity and restore a sense of caring and sharing amongst those who we call ‘Neighbors and Friends.’ Be well!!!

Wish List:
Other Greenhouse Materials we need: 
  • Aluminum-framed, slider windows with screens. 4' x 4' is optimal but anything that size or smaller could work. 
  • Pressure-treated lumber: (4 x 4's), (2 x 4's), (2 x 6's), (4 x 6's) - all sizes. We can salvage materials that have nails in them.
  • Plywood: full or partial pieces 
  • Food-grade, 50-gallon plastic barrels (preferable) or metal drums. We paint them a dark color (if they aren't already), fill them with water and use them to support potting tables. They provide thermal-mass by warming up on sunny days and releasing their heat through the night. Very helpful in the spring (for germinating seedlings) and the fall, for extending the growing season.  
Other Garden Needs:
  • Raked leaves for garden mulch. Please bring them to either garden. LOCATIONS Let us know if you need any leaf bags. We re-use them if they're not too torn.  It helps if you don't tie them too tight (the ones you're dropping off). Please no trash, dog-doo or walnut leaves (they're toxic to plant growth.) 
  • Spoiled Hay or Straw- We use literally tons of hay to mulch and feed the gardens. If you're cleaning out your barn and need some place for the old stuff to go, we'd welcome it! We can even give you a tax-write-off for your donation.
  • Mechanic who's good with small-engine repair: Our roto-tillers and lawn mowers get quite a work-out! The gardens would really benefit from someone who likes to tinker and tune up small engines to keep them running well. We'll keep you supplied with lots of fresh, organic produce!

  • Garden cart or two-wheeled wheel barrow
  • Leaf rakes and other garden tools
  • Trash cans 
  • Plastic tubs, 5-gallon buckets, kitty-litter tubs etc. (please no broken ones)
  • T-posts (slightly bent, OK). All lengths helpful.
  • Cedar fence boards - we use them to build bird houses and compost bins (among other things).
  • Mud boots: some of our volunteers are low-income and can't afford mud boots. We will keep them on-hand for use in the garden. All sizes welcome. 
  • Straw hats: We keep a supply of them at the gardens for volunteers to use.
  • Accurate grocer's scale (to weigh the harvest at the Alpine Garden) 
  • Clean plastic/paper sacks 
  • Canning jars - all sizes, brought to either site
  • Seeds - heirloom varieties, not hybrid (so we can save seeds)
All Donations are Tax-deductible - ask us for a receipt.

       To contact us, please call or email:
       (541) 847-8797 (call from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm)

Cash donations - make checks out to the "Sharing Gardens"  and mail to 
       Sharing Gardens
        PO Box 11
        Monroe, OR 97456

Or use your credit card to make a donation through PayPal (click the button below).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Congratulations! Sharing Garden Wins Awards!

Renee Forrer and Chris Burns. Renee showed up every Monday to harvest for the South Benton Nutrition Program, a twice-weekly lunch for local Seniors. Thanks to her nomination, we received this year's Distinguished Service Award from the Tri-Counties Chamber of Commerce. What an honor!
This year, the Sharing Garden has received two "Distinguished Service Awards". One from the Tri-Counties Chamber of Commerce and the second from Benton County's Extension Service (the agency that oversees the 4-H program). What follows is the acceptance speech we read at the Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Distinguished Service Award Acceptance Speech
"Anyone who has been following the news over the past 6 months knows that food security has become a global issue. Food-crops such as wheat, corn and rice have failed due to both droughts and flooding. Last week it was reported that more Americans are on Food Stamps than ever before and right here in our own communities we've seen the recent crises of two local Food Banks. God's Store-House in Harrisburg recently had to temporarily close their doors and Junction City's Local Aid also was facing the empty-shelf syndrome. Happily, both communities were able to rally and get the shelves re-stocked with donations.

We think it says a lot about the Tri-Counties area that you have seen enough value in the Sharing Gardens to honor us with this Distinguished Service Award. The 4-H group of Monroe, and the Benton County Extension Service have also presented us with a Distinguished Service Award this year so, we must be doing something right! Though Chris and I are standing here to receive the Award, the Sharing Gardens would not be possible without all the contributions made through donors and volunteers. The gardens thrive because they have become a hub for people to contribute and connect; each from the level and ability that feels right to them.
The land and water for the two sites have been provided free-of-charge. The tools, fencing, seeds, manure, spoiled hay, and everything else that we use to grow food, was all donated directly, or purchased with money received through gifts and grants. From mid-Spring through mid-Autumn volunteers have come to the gardens as often as three times a week to share in the joys and challenges of organic gardening. This award truly goes to everyone who has been a part of the gardens' success.

As many of you know, the food is grown collectively. There are no separate plots. This creates ease for watering, pest management and seed-saving. The harvest is shared with the volunteers and those who have contributed in some way and the surplus is distributed through local food banks and charities. We believe that no-one should ever go hungry, regardless of their circumstances, and so no one is ever charged money for the food that is grown.

2011, in spite of the cool, wet start, has been a very successful year. Our overall harvest increased by about 30 percent. The total amount grown was over 4,600 pounds!
In one week alone we harvested 583 pounds of tomatoes! 
And our overall lettuce harvest was close to 900 heads!
If the people being fed from the gardens had been able to afford to buy this organic produce at the market it would have cost them at least: $14,500 dollars! As Chris and I lived off our savings this year, and did not draw a stipend, the season's budget was only about $2,000 dollars. (A pretty good return on the investment!) (For a full report on amount of produce grown or our operating expenses, send us an email.)

In the interests of local food-security, part of our mission has been to grow-out and save seed from heirloom varieties of plants that thrive in our region. This has been a great year for seed-saving. Our seed-bank now contains over three, five-gallon buckets of vigorous, pure, Heirloom seeds especially adapted to local growing conditions.

So, what's next? We have a 10-point Mission Statement aimed towards local food self-reliance To read it, click here. Much of it is already in motion. In coming seasons we would like to:

Build a greenhouse – to extend our growing season and have the capacity to provide “starts” to other Sharing-type gardens in the region.
Create small local canneries – where people can learn and practice the art of food preservation.
Expand the seed-saving program to create a network of local gardeners and farmers.
Mentor other groups to start Sharing Gardens in Junction City, Harrisburg and the surrounding areas or beyond.

Ultimately we'd like to start a “rural-arts” school – a place where people could come to share their knowledge and experience of living close to the land through offering hands-on workshops, and where people could learn and transplant this knowledge back into the community.

The Sharing Gardens is a non-profit charitable program and we can issue tax-receipts for any donations. We can always put funds and materials to good use and we'd also love to find a land-base for the school and gardens. Please be in touch if you'd like to partner with us in this meaningful, pioneering adventure.

We'd like to close this presentation with a short story: 

Once upon a time, there was a group of people who found themselves in Hell. Now at first it didn't seem like Hell. They sat together around a large table that was covered with a sumptuous feast. Every favorite kind of food they could think of was there. Gorgeous salads and cheeses, soups, nuts, casseroles and pies. All the bounty of the Earth. The smells were intoxicating; the colors – a true work of art. What made this Hell was that the only utensils to eat the food were each three-feet long. No matter how long they stretched their arms and craned back their necks, they could get none of the food into their mouths and feed. They remained starving in the midst of a feast.

There was another group who found themselves in Heaven. Everything was the same: the beautifully laid banquet, the exquisite choices, the sights and aromas. Here too, the only utensils for eating were all three-feet long. The only difference was, that instead of trying to feed only themselves, the Heaven-crowd picked up the spoons and forks and began feeding each other. And in this way, they all were able to share in the feast. Thank you."
Christy Warden (left) nominated us for the Benton County's OSU Extension Service/4-H "Distinguished Service Award". She was the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce's "Citizen of the Year Award" for her dedication to our town's 4-H group. We are excited about our deepening collaboration. (Llyn Peabody on the right).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Harvest Totals, Updates and Wishlist

This post covers the harvest totals for 2011- with some great harvest photos (be sure to scroll to the bottom for the gallery),  an update on the Great Monroe Leaf Drive, and a link to our ever-evolving wish-list.

Striped German - an Heirloom tomato - one of our favorites.
Harvest Totals and new distribution partners:
Each week we had three volunteer sessions. On harvest days, people would gather the ripe produce and bring it to be washed, weighed and boxed for distribution. Volunteers would take a break shortly before the Food Bank opened and do their "shopping", taking home all they could use. The rest was wheel-barrowed over to the Food Bank - 50 yards away.

Harvest on display for volunteers to "shop". No one is ever charged money for the food that is grown.
First the totals from 2010 to give some perspective:

Our big producers in 2010 were:
Beans: 225 pounds
Cucumbers: 653 pounds
Tomatoes: 1,285 pounds
Total pounds: 3,533
Market value of total harvest: $9,950
In 2011, we expanded into using the full Monroe/Crowson garden plot (last year we only used about half of it). Even though we didn't plant the back half, Steve Rose had tilled it in the Spring of 2010 and we mulched it quite deeply with hay/straw. The garden was very fertile.
Here are the highlights of the 2011 harvests:

Lettuce: 877 heads
Potatoes: 910 pounds
Winter Squash: 291 pounds
Tomatoes: 2101 pounds
Market value of total harvest: $14,504
Genny with lettuce harvest.
We have made some new partnerships this year in distributing the surplus food. In 2010, we often found ourselves at the end of the Food Bank time, running around and trying to get people to take home more produce. We just didn't want to see any of it go to waste. This year we added a second harvest day in Monroe (the bigger of the two gardens). That mid-week harvest mostly went to the South Benton Nutrition Program - for their bi-weekly lunch for Seniors. When there was enough, we sent along vegetables for the Seniors themselves to take home.

We've made a great connection with Betty Briggs who, with her husband, Pat, oversees the Harrisburg Gleaners. The Gleaners group has many able-bodied members who glean fruits and vegetables from local farmers and share the harvest with "adopted" families and people in need in the Harrisburg area. Betty's group has many people who still "can" and store food so they were able to distribute our surplus to those who would make good use of it. Towards the end of the season, Betty began to come help in the gardens as well. We anticipate deepening the connection between our two groups next Spring - either they will come volunteer more in the Monroe garden and/or we'll help them get a Sharing Garden started closer to where they live. (If anyone has a lead on some land we could use to start a Harrisburg garden, let us know).

Peppers from 2010

Linn/Benton Food Share has also helped us with our surplus. They deliver food to the Monroe Food Bank every other week. Often we just boxed up what wasn't taken by Food Bank customers and they would transport it to a soup-kitchen/food bank in Corvallis to be distributed.

Chris and I also had fun playing "Santa" some weeks and drove around Monroe to friends and local businesses passing out beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and whatever else was ripe, off the tailgate of our trusty 1968 GMC pick-up truck!

The Great Monroe Leaf Drive

Well, it was supposed to happen on November the 5th but the weather was lousy and frankly, there aren't that many leaves that have fallen yet. We've postponed it till further notice but we still welcome any leaves brought to either garden.  LOCATIONS

Please no trash, dog-doo or walnut leaves (they're toxic to plant growth.)

Our Ever-Evolving Wish-list: Mostly it's the same old stuff: garden supplies and building materials that need a new home/second life. There are a few new specifics though we'd appreciate you keeping an eye out for...

We're going to build another greenhouse! We'd like to make it from two steel-tube carports attached end-to-end. If you know of a used one (or two) that need a new purpose, please let us know. Here's a picture of what we're looking for (or something similar). We'll need two that are the same. We don't need the tarp covering.

We need two carport canopies to build a greenhouse with.
Please bring us your leaves for garden mulch. Bring them to either garden.
Fruit and nuts: If you have windfall fruit or nuts that you'd like to donate, please bring them to the food bank so they can be shared with those in need. If you are physically unable to harvest them yourselves contact us and we will do our best to arrange for volunteers to assist. Link to Food Bank Hours
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Filberts
  • Walnuts
We need a mechanic who's good with small-engine repair: Our roto-tillers and lawn mowers get quite a work-out! The gardens would really benefit from someone who likes to tinker and tune up small engines to keep them running well. We'll keep you supplied with lots of fresh, organic produce! For the full Wish-List - GO TO

It is always such a delight to see Nature's abundance and beauty as we harvest the gardens. Here is a gallery showing some of this year's highlights. Enjoy!

Lettuce, Beans and Apples:

Red Iceberg Lettuce
Never eat anything bigger than your head!
A beautiful mix of greens and reds.
Scarlet Runner Beans
"Winter Bananas" - a great storage apple
Gleaned apples.
It's great to see these apples going to feed people and not just rot on the ground.
Sunflowers: Beauty, food for us and the birds!

Saving seeds to grow sprouts (winter greens) and next year's crop.
We saved gallons of seed this year.
Squash, Cukes and Potatoes:

Pickling cucumbers in the hay.
Squash harvest.
Delicata Squash - sweet, golden meat and tender skin.
Buttercup Squash - hearty, orange/golden meat.
This potato weighed three pounds!

Tomato Gallery:  
Another "Striped German" - low acid. All yumm!
These are called "Long Toms" - a delicious paste tomato
A whole tray of "Long Toms" - the river that runs close by our garden is called the "Long Tom" too!
"Hillbilly Potato Leaf"Tomatoes
A succulent "Brandywine" tomato
Close-up of a "Striped German"
If you are receiving this email as a "forward" and would like to see our full Sharing Gardens website/blog, GO TO

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stone Soup, Gratitude and Wishlist

Some of you have been receiving news of the Sharing Gardens since we began in April 2009. Others of you have joined us along the way. This post is a reminder of what makes our community gardens unique, as well as offering thanks to some of the people and organizations who help make the gardens thrive.

Alpine and Monroe's Sharing Gardens are a unique model of Community Garden. Instead of many separate plots that are rented by individuals, these gardens are one large plot, shared by all. All materials and labor are donated. The food we grow is shared amongst those who have contributed in some way as well as with others who are in need in our community. All surplus is donated to our local food-bank and other local food charities. No one is ever charged money for the food that is grown.

Remember the story of "Stone Soup"? A couple of strangers wander into a town of suspicious people and offer to make Stone Soup. No one believes it can be done, and everyone withholds contributing until a small child, who hasn't been tainted yet by the town's stingy spirit, brings forth a few onions stored in her family's root cellar. One by one the townspeople get caught up in the spirit of sharing and, by the end of the story they all sit down to delicious soup, made better by what each of them contributed.

Cathy Rose, Danielle and Llyn - 2010 with bouquets of kale.
The Sharing Gardens are a lot like Stone Soup. Everything that goes into making it a success comes from the generosity of people near and far. Some people give time, some give money and some bring us surplus materials they don't have need of, or even things like grass clippings, old cedar boards or other things bound for the dump or burn-pile. The gardens become a focal point for giving and receiving -- with each person who donates being blessed with the good feeling that they are making the world a better place through their contributions. And, for those local enough to partake, they're sharing in the bounty of the garden's beautiful harvest as well.
Local kids help with the harvest.

Each week brings new surprises in support and generosity and there are also on-going supporters who help make the garden's success possible.

Most recently we have some new, specific people to thank:

Bob and Cheryl Ballard brought us a dozen full bags of dried grass clippings - great for mulching the potatoes and putting under the burgeoning winter squash so they don't develop rotten spots.

Judy Todd has made a second cash donation.

We are grateful for our ongoing community of volunteers. People help out in the ways they are able; we find tasks to suit everyone's abilities. If you'd like to join in the fun of gardening without use of herbicides and pesticides, and share in the harvest, here is a link that shows our regular volunteer times, or send us an email and we can add you to the list to receive weekly reminders.

It's been awhile since we thanked our on-going supporters. These are people and organizations that help make the gardens possible:

Chester Crowson - owns the land where we have the Monroe site. He lets us use it for free as well as covering the cost of the electricity to run the pump in the well.

Bud Hardin - made a lump-sum donation to cover the cost of a portable toilet at the Monroe garden site for a whole year! The toilet is shared with the Monroe Food Bank volunteers as well. (And thanks to Guy Urbach for approaching Bud on our behalf - it wouldn't have happened without you!)

Best Pots -  is the local portable toilet service that provides a unit at the Monroe garden. They have given us a generous discount on the rental fee.

Weekly harvest - Alpine 2010

Mylrea Estell and Ray Kreth
- our landlords - continue to harbor us in a low-pressure and generous arrangement, making it possible for us to volunteer so much of our time to the gardens.

Alpine Community Center - has umbrellaed us under their insurance policy so the activities at both garden sites are covered.

Alpine Chapel Park - has provided us the site for our Alpine Garden free of charge, since 2009.

Alpine Pump - Dorothy and Gary give us permission to put the gardens' trash into their dumpster.

Jennifer Rivais - empties the garbage cans at Alpine's Chapel Park as an on-going service.

 ...and The Tribune News - our great, local, weekly paper has been very helpful in printing many of our posts and helping us circulate news of the gardens to a much larger audience than we can reach on-line.

If you've been itching to get involved in some way and would like to know how you can add your "onions" to the pot, check out our Wish List below, or come down on one of the volunteer days and share in the "stone soup" garden.

Here is our current wishlist

Garden locations and volunteer times

Happy pumpkin picker - 2010

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harvest Totals - June-July 2011, Giver's Gallery

One week's lettuce harvest!
(Note: I started this post almost three weeks ago and then life took over! Rather than re-write it, just know that it's not entirely up to date...) 

We've been harvesting from the garden for ten weeks. The lettuce, peas and broccoli are finished for now. The beets, onions, zucchini, tomatoes and potatoes are just beginning. We started seeds for our fall/winter crops a few weeks ago and have begun transplanting them in the ground.  We weigh and tally all the harvests before distribution. This food is shared amongst volunteers and other contributors, the Monroe Food Bank, Monroe's Senior Nutrition Program (bi-weekly lunches at the Legion Hall), Harrisburg Gleaners and Linn/Benton Food Share. Here are harvest totals, as of July 31.

Beets: 21 bunches
Broccoli: 26 pounds
Kale: 127 bunches
Lettuce: 551 heads (a great year for lettuce!!)
Green onion bunches: 23
Peas: 20 pounds
Spinach: 25 bunches

After checking with our local market that sells organic food, we tallied up how much this produce would cost if people were buying it for themselves. The total came to a little more than $2,500.

Gallery of Givers

We've got a really wonderful core group of volunteers showing up once or twice a week now. One day we had three mother/daughter pairs. And another day we had four young people ages 7 to 11. My mom, Judy has been visiting for two weeks and sister, Sue and nephew, Miles, joined in for an afternoon, which was really fun. Here are a sampling of smiling faces, happy helpers and a view of the garden's progress.

Miles plants broccoli
Sue displays an early onion harvest proudly.

Kaitlynn and Kyra with a bucket of potatoes freshly harvested
Christine (Ms Bug) trims tomatoes
Monroe Garden - celery in sleeves on left, lettuce-starts in middle, potatoes on right
That's an 8-pound cabbage!
Judy-mom, Chris and Jennifer - mulching with grass clippings
Kaitlynn watering the lettuce and Brussels Sprouts
Mark building a new compost bin
Niko - our youngest helper, takes a turn at watering.