Community garden target of bugs, beetles ... burglars

Elaine Haney points to the spot where someone stole several feet of the carrots she’s been growing in a rented plot of the community garden at Fifth Street and Chipeta Avenue.

It’s not just squash bugs and cucumber beetles that have a hankering for the fresh vegetables being grown in the Grand Junction Community Garden. It seems the fresh produce is subject to a few human predators as well.

Someone has been stealing vegetables from the garden’s plots on the corner of Fifth Street and Ouray Avenue downtown, said several of the community gardeners who were watering their crops Friday afternoon.

Elaine Haney lost the entire middle section out of her row of carrots last Monday. She’s thankful the vegetable robber only took part, not all, of her harvest.

“When you plant and take care of all these, you think you’re going to get to eat them,” she said, the frustration obvious in her voice.

Susan Rose, horticultural education assistant at the Colorado State University Extension office, said perhaps people were stealing out of the garden because some may misunderstand what the community garden is all about.

The garden is a place where urban vegetable- and flower-growers can lease a plot of land from the extension office, which is leasing the land from the Mesa County Library, for their own personal growing needs. Gardeners pay $50 for the use of the plot throughout the growing season, and any food grown belongs to the gardener.

It is not a place where the community can go to dig up fresh vegetables, Rose said.

In an effort to stave off future misunderstandings, the extension office erected a new sign and gave the project a new name Thursday afternoon. Now the corner lot is called The Garden by the Library.

David Carch, a library employee who tends his plot during his lunch hour, called the theft “slightly frustrating,” adding someone stole a spray nozzle from his hose last week.

First-time gardener Julia Adan said she thinks the best solution to the problem is for all of the project gardeners to get together so they know each other. Currently, the gardeners may help each other by watering another’s plot on a hot day, but they rarely interact or know each other by name, so they wouldn’t be able to tell if someone was in the garden who shouldn’t be.

Rose said the extension office is assessing security options for the garden, which might include new fencing or surveillance cameras.

“Truthfully, if there is someone homeless who needs to steal, then I guess they need it worse than us,” she said.

“I think it’s great, so I’m not going to complain. We knew there was a possibility that people could steal but that’s just part of it,” Haney said.

The participating gardeners say the community plot is a welcome addition to their downtown neighborhood, despite the occasional setback. Many homes in the downtown area don’t have enough yard space to grow produce, and this provides a means of getting fresh, homegrown vegetables.

“I like it, and it looks really nice for our neighborhood,” Adan said. “We just need to start helping each other out.”


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