SustainAbility: Community garden

Mark and Pam Gibbons have a small garden at home but choose to put most of their energy into the Canyon View community garden. Even with full time jobs, Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings find the couple at the flourishing garden nestled between Canyon View Vineyard Church and the new site of Caprock Academy.

Mark calls gardening a “stress reducer” and enjoys the “calming effect” of working in the garden. As one of a dozen garden leaders, he also enjoys being a steward of the earth and part of a group effort enhancing community.

Pam, with her special affinity for the numerous tomato plants, says the garden is “total therapy” and derives a sense of accomplishment from immediate results.

The community garden is overseen by the “Helps Team,” a benevolent ministry of the Vineyard church. This year the garden has more than doubled in size with 98 40-foot rows on the half-acre growing area.

A new flower garden and shelter with a pergola provide welcome shade in the middle of the garden. Mark designed the flower garden and said the addition of benches will help create a quiet place for contemplation.

The garden is based on computer plans from the Mittleider method and the local team has relied heavily on expertise from the Vineyard Church in Boise, Idaho. That congregation shared the idea of building trellises supported by wooden T structures to allow vertical training for the multitude of tomato plants.

The expansion took less effort than the initial work on the garden because there was an established process for building the infrastructure of rows and irrigation.

Early vegetables like peas and lettuce were planted in March but the bulk of the planting took place between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Now the neat rows display a wide assortment of vegetables in various stages of growth. In addition to tomatoes, beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peppers, potatoes and squash are thriving.

Last year more than 11,000 pounds of vegetables were harvested from the garden and totals for this year should exceed that number due to the expansion.

On any given Saturday morning between 12 and 50 volunteers are busy working in the garden. They feed, weed and water the plants, using an efficient manually operated stream system. Some helpers work on Tuesday evenings.

The harvest will begin in earnest late this month or early August. Volunteers get first dibs on the food for their families.

As additional vegetables are picked they are put in bags and briefly stored in an air conditioned garage at the site until they are made available for congregation members attending church services. Some of the bounty will be distributed to those in need.

An informal food co-op is also in infant stages for people who cannot volunteer in the garden but want fresh, local produce.

Rob Breeden, garden coordinator, said he hopes the garden can give people a “closer connection to our food” and promote eating locally.

This year, leaders of the garden will closely track the number of volunteers to quantify that aspect of community involvement.

Breeden envisions integrating the garden and community through partnerships with other groups. One example would be a group of artists contributing art to the garden in exchange for produce.

Seniors with no space to garden could join in the fun at the community garden and reap the benefits of fresh food.

Some neighbors passing by the garden have decided to participate. “Our goal is to build relationships among families, individuals, neighbors and community members,” Breeden stated.

In the long term he would like the garden to serve as a model for other churches wanting to start neighborhood gardens. To get involved email Breeden at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 210-2155.

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Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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