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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Generous Garden - SC

We recently heard of another "Sharing"-type garden in South Carolina called the Generous Garden Project. They too grow food on a volunteer basis and make it available for free to Food Banks, Shelters and others in need. They are excited to announce that they have been gifted with two, twenty acre parcels of land to expand their project! Watch this inspiring video made several years ago when the project was just getting started.  Enjoy, and be inspired!

Check out their site if you wish to learn more about them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enough and To Spare, To Give and To Share

Signs indicate where donors can leave materials. Chris tills the ground with greenhouse in the background.
"So, are you getting enough volunteer participation this season?" asked a visitor to the Sharing Gardens last week. The answer is, we're getting "enough" but not very much. Of the 4,000+ seedlings we started in our new greenhouse (mostly from seed we saved ourselves) and the hundreds of those transplanted into the ground, we've probably done 95% of them. But we're not feeling burdened by this and in fact, in some ways we're feeling more supported than ever this season. The donations we're receiving of cash and materials free us to spend less time earning a living and more time in the garden (anywhere from two to six hours a day) growing food to help those in need. Support is showing up in other important ways, outside the garden, that help us keep things moving forward.

Beautiful worm-compost.
For example, Monroe resident John Kinsey has a red-wiggler worm farm in his backyard. He takes kitchen scraps, weeds, grass clippings and other organic material and feeds it to his worms who turn it into fantastic compost and worm castings (poo). He also brings us bags and bags of grass clippings from his own and other people's yards which we use to mulch our plants. John is also growing this year's garlic crop in his raised beds and will grow exclusively JalapeƱo pepper plants so that he can save pure seed. He lives close enough that it will be easy for him to share in the bounty of all the other kinds of peppers and garden produce grown at the main garden-site so it's a real win-win all around.

Sam and Becky Bowman, with Chris.
Sam Bowmen has been another friend who's been doing all our small-engine repair and maintenance. Brother to Loren, who started the Monroe Food Bank, and Curtis, who manages it now, he comes from a family of community servants and has extended himself generously to keep our tillers, mower and string-trimmer running smoothly. Sam and John are both examples of people finding where their own talents and interests can intersect with the garden's needs and, though they may not be physically in the gardens with us, their support makes the gardens possible.

Volunteers plant tomatoes amidst straw -mulch paths.
Support has also come in the form of donations of materials and money. Mark and Heather Frystak keep amazing us with their generosity. Heather's family has lived in the area for generations and, though Mark has "married in" he's become a major networker and advocate of the Sharing Gardens by securing donations of coffee grounds (from relatives who run a coffee shop in Albany) and straw from Soggy Bottom Farms near Harrisburg (also part of his new extended family). The Frystak's generosity has not stopped there. Mark keeps a regular watch on the Wish List published on our website and, showed up with 22, brand new, ten-foot T-posts. The really amazing donation followed our request for a set of tires for our 1968 GMC pick-up truck. We were hoping someone might have a used-set sitting in their barn or garage, that they're not needing anymore. Imagine our surprise when Mark sent us an email saying, "Meet me at Les Schwab tire store, and I'll make it happen." And he did. he bought us a brand new set!

Amy, Cindy and Adri sort donated pots and flats.
Our friends and neighbors, Larry and Germaine Hammon, not to be outdone, have donated an 18-foot, fifth-wheel travel trailer, in very good condition. We just need to do some minor repairs and detailing and it's up for sale. All proceeds will go directly into the Garden account. In the past six weeks we have also received a $1,000 grant from the OSU Thrift store, a generous cash donation from Claudia McCue, several hundred dollars in donations from people who have come for seeds and starts at our "Give-aways", and a full $200 donation from the Circle of Children Village/School at Triangle Lake who received the last of our starts on Sunday, June 3rd. Thanks got to Gini Bramlett and the Tribune News for publishing so many of our posts and helping us reach people who don't have internet access. Rann and Doreen Millar bought the Gardens a subscription to the Tribune News so we can clip the articles for our scrapbook. We are also grateful for the delivery of sheep manure from David Wells and steer manure from Mike Spoerl (who also gave us a 55-pound bag of powdered kelp.) Keep it coming!

So, though we welcome more volunteer participation in the garden, and are grateful to those who have already been coming out in support, you can see, we are being well embraced by the community.

Other Sharing Garden news:

As many people know, we are no longer gardening at the Alpine site. Building the greenhouse in Monroe has meant we must go there at least once a day for watering and we felt it would spread us too thin to manage and maintain both sites. The fence is still up and it appears some local residents are carrying on with the gardening, which is wonderful.
OSU students help us mulch and plant in April.
In April, we had four volunteers from OSU's Geo 300 class come and help us with mulching and transplanting broccoli, kale, lettuce, chard and spinach. They were a huge help. Imagine our chagrin when, only three days later, two of the four rows planted had been decimated by slugs which were practically growing before our eyes. Follow this link to read about the non-toxic, simple solution we discovered to bring these voracious eaters back into balance.

Volunteer, Jennifer Rivais and Llyn wheel a cart-load of starts for Jen's garden.
In May we were invited to give a presentation to the United Methodist's Lady's Tea - an annual event dating back many decades. Ours was one of their best attended (over 35 ladies). We ran a slide-show of about 100 images of volunteers and bounteous harvests, while answering questions from the audience so they could direct the presentation based on their interests. We provided potted Cosmos and Marigolds, and the Church served strawberry shortcake. My favourite moment was when we invited the ladies to come on a tour (the gardens are directly behind the church) and a dozen or so made their way, in their Sunday finest, along the freshly mulched paths and into the jungle of greenery filling the greenhouse. It looked like we'd been graced by a flock of rare, tropical birds. If you are local and have a group who would like to see an inspiring and informing presentation, contact us to set up a time.
Pink Cosmos
On Sunday, June 10th, we hosted a potluck/picnic for the Corvallis Organic Gardening Club - a group that meets monthly throughout the year to share best practices on organic gardening and enjoy each others company. Through the winter months the group meets at the 1st Alternative Co-op in Corvallis for seed swaps and talks on relevant topics. In the summer months we tour member's gardens. It was very gratifying to share about our project and gardening practices. Chris and I both led groups around and fielded questions. The bonus of the evening was live entertainment from one of our favourite, local bands - "When Picks Fly". They brought a down-home, Old-Tyme style of acoustic, stringed instruments. "When Picks Fly" will also be playing at the Farm to Farm Century Ride - our second, annual fund-raiser that features a cyclists' tour of small scale farms, and focuses on "Eating Local and Healthy."

"When Picks Fly" Joe, Kathy, Shep and Warren (l to r) Toe tapping fun at the Sharing Gardens!
Current needs:
We have used up the last of the straw that was previously donated and still have need of several tons more. We use a deep-mulch method that feeds the soil as the worms digest the organic matter from below. The 4-8 inches of mulch also block weeds from growing and moderate the temperature and moisture levels of the soil minimizing our need to water and giving the plants a stable environment in which to grow.

If you are a rancher, or have horses and need to get rid of last year's hay to make way for the new, please bring it to us. We can provide a tax-receipt for your donation and you will know you are contributing to a worthwhile cause.
OSU students apply deep mulch in the paths. The garden uses literally tons of hay, straw and other organic materials each year.
For our full wish list click here.