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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Growing Gratitude

Dear Friends and supporters of the Sharing Gardens - Well, it's been almost six months since we last posted!

We just finished our eighth season, have a core group of 6-10 sharegivers who help us in the garden, deepening relationships with our neighbors, and we're still sending close to 5,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce -- free of charge--to two local food pantries. That's in addition to the sizable harvests our sharegivers take home each week to feed their families and can/dehydrate for winter-use.

Our website continues to have anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 visits per month from all over the world  from people interested in how our project works and how to grow food in the methods we use.

Oregon State University, with their commitment to 'service-learning' has sent us close to 75 students in 2016 for volunteer time in the gardens. Here's a delightful video made by Trent Toney, one of the OSU students, that gives you a glimpse into a typical service-learning day at the Gardens. Enjoy! LINK

This post highlights many of the people and organizations who help us be in service to the world. Enjoy!

Gradually, people in our small town are beginning to see the Sharing Gardens as a place to share their surplus - whether that be building materials, canning and garden-supplies, yard "waste" or fruits and veggies.

Mulches Gracias

Leaves, a renewable natural resource.
Because we practice an organic method of farming that uses large amounts of organic materials (leaves, grass, kitchen-scraps) it has been important to develop relationships with our "neighbors" to keep a strong supply coming. Our town does not provide a yard-waste pick up service so this valuable resource is often burned or left to rot in the corner of people's yards where it benefits no one. Currently we receive leaves and/or grass clippings from six families in our community. These are - Cathy and Roger Coy, Jo and David Crosby, George and Irene Daugherty, Jody Kahn, Victor Stone and Michelle and Al Copeland. Thanks so much! Keep 'em coming!

Grass, donated by neighbors, increases garden fertility.
Chris and David Crosby - unloading a composted horse manure delivery.

Michelle and her partner, Al convinced the people they do yard-work for, to buy this large wheelbarrow so they could bring us grass clippings once a week from a block away.
Much of the organic material we receive is placed directly on the soil as a top-dressing or mulch. This feeds the worms, bacteria and fungi below. With the surplus, we build compost piles. The finished compost is used for planting in the spring. (Deep Mulch Method: LINK)

Llyn layering grass and leaves in a compost-ring. Minimum 3-foot diameter.
Service-learning students help to turn our compost piles.

Finished compost can be added to potting soil, mixed into planting holes or used as mulch around plants.

It takes a village...

There are many ways people support the sharing gardens. Here are some of this year's donors:

Our neighbors Donna and John Dillard have been very generous this year donating apples and pears, metal roofing, welded-wire fencing and all the firewood we could handle off a huge oak tree cut down in their yard. That will keep us warm for several winters!
Eva (above), also brought many bushels of apples gleaned from her neighbor's tree.

John Kinsey (left) has a backyard worm farm. He feeds his worms food scraps and coffee grounds. The worm-poo (castings) provides excellent soil-fertility. John donates worm castings and surplus coffee-grounds he collects weekly from a local coffee-shop. (Pictured with garlic seeds).

Steve Rose (right) has made many generous donations over the years --tomato starts, hundreds of gallon pots, bamboo, and more. This year he's provided us with spores from the Wine Red Stropharia mushrooms with which we have successfully inoculated a wood-chip pile. Delicious! Here he is giving a lesson in grafting fruit-trees. Steve is a fountain of knowledge and a real local treasure.

Monroe's United Methodist church had a long stretch of fence-boards they wanted removed. Here's Chris (above) de-nailing them for re-use as bird-houses and fencing around the gardens.

This year we extended our wire fence to encompass almost the full three acres of the property. We ran into some problems in late winter because the ground was too wet to pour cement for wooden corner posts. The gardens were open to local deer and we suffered some significant damage to our fruit-tree saplings and new spring crops. Our dear friend Rob (left) came to the rescue. He put in several long sessions with Chris, pounding metal posts and hanging the fence once we got the corner posts in. It was a huge help!

Oregon State Univ. students continue to come each term and provide volunteer help in the gardens. They receive credit and hands-on experience and we receive a huge amount of help! We have hosted close to 75 students in 2016 for four-hours each. Wow, do they get a lot done! Our biggest challenge is to provide enough tasks to keep them busy. Their time with us always includes a popcorn break when we engage them in rich conversations about organic gardening and sustainability. These students were transplanting tomato seedlings.
A recent student group leader wrote:
 "Thank you so much for having us participate in the Sharing Gardens. Our group appreciated everything you and Chris taught us today! I want to thank you for everything you do in helping to make your community better each and every day. We had a blast today and we want to also thank you for welcoming us into your home and passing your knowledge to us!"
We provide free produce to two Food Pantries. One of them is just a wheelbarrow's ride away (South Benton Food Pantry) but Local Aid is almost 10-miles from us. We're grateful to Pete Alford for coming weekly to drive our donation to Local Aid. We don't have a picture of Pete but the smiling faces above are volunteers at Local Aid, receiving our donation.

Llyn's mom, Judy Peabody continues to make a large cash donation each year. Thanks, Mom! Sandy and Andy (not pictured) have also made annual donations for several years in a row.

Meet Janeece and her right-hand man Dave Cook. Janeece took over the management of the South Benton Food Pantry a few years ago and has done a fantastic job. She has changed it into a "shopping style" pantry so, instead of each family getting the same contents in their boxes, they may choose the foods that their families will use. Janeece has also become an avid label-reader and has begun providing whole-grain, less processed and organic foods when available. In the time she has been manager we notice a real increase in the customers' awareness around food choices and greater attraction for the fresh fruits and veggies being offered. Earlier this Fall, Janeece went before her Board and advocated for financial support for the Sharing Gardens. The $500 annual stipend was approved unanimously by the Board with a retroactive $500 for 2015. We are now automatically included in their budget each year. We are so grateful for the growing sense of partnership with the Cooks and South Benton Food Pantry.

Meet Jim and Cindy Kitchen. Jim's holding about half of last year's kidney-bean harvest while Cindy can be found in her usual weekly task of rinsing beets. These two have become like family to us. Cindy discovered us back in 2010 when we made a presentation about community gardens. She wanted to start one with her church and was comparing models. She decided the SG was the way to go and tried for a season to get one started, coming weekly to our gardens for tips and inspiration. Well, her church garden didn't work out but she and Jim and their granddaughter, Adri began to be some of our steadiest participants. Cindy is known for keeping her eye out for organic foods on sale that she knows we'll like and quietly slipping them into our fridge or pantry when we're not looking; or finding garden-supplies at yard sales and leaving them in our garden shed for later discovery. She and Jim also made a cash donation this year to offset the cost of supplies. The big surprise came back in the Spring when they noticed we'd asked for a refurbished computer on our wishlist to replace our ancient desk-top model. Jim did the research and found us a wonderful computer that's lightening fast and able to keep up with all its needed updates. You guys are great!

Lest we give the wrong impression that the Sharing Gardens is successfully supported by our community, financial donations in 2016 were $950. The balance of costs to run the garden come entirely out of our own funds. If you're inspired by what we do and wish to see it thrive and grow, please be generous. All donations are tax-deductible. (See our wish list for info on donations - Wish list LINK).

The Sharing Gardens would not be complete without its community of sharegivers. These people come week after week and help with whatever garden tasks are needed - from planting and mulching to weeding and harvesting. We thank you!

Kat, Chris, Jim, Cindy and Rook. Just look at all those tomatoes!

Jim, Llyn, Chris, Rob, Sabine and Doreen surrounding part of a week's harvest. (Elisa, not pictured).
Each year I'm filled with joy and wonder at the beauty of the garden-harvests. The plants seem to know they're being grown to be shared and give with all of Nature's generosity.

Delicious celery.

Sweet Meat squash. great for pies!

Striped German tomatoes (left) and Black Krims (rt.). We grew 87 plants this year - all Heirloom varieties so we can save our own seed.
A very good year for peppers!
Thank you for your support of the Sharing Gardens!