“A garden… is a solution that leads to other solutions,” wrote writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry in his book, “The Gift of Good Land.” “It is a part of the limitless pattern of good health and good sense.”
Many of us took to our gardens in the spring, whether we were novices just wanting some time outdoors during quarantine or maybe with the hope of becoming more self-sufficient in turbulent times. Community gardens offer self-reliance and add to our community’s resilience. I love the idea of a lush and prospering community garden, especially one located in a neighborhood where residents might not have easy access to fresh produce.
Typically, community gardens have plots that you can rent for the season. That is true of the Eastmont Community Garden (ECG). The property, near the corner of 9th Street and Eastmont Avenue in East Wenatchee, is owned by Columbia Valley Community Health, which also supplies the irrigation water. The garden is a partnership with Chelan/Douglas Master Gardeners and its volunteers who offer assistance in gardening.
Emilie Fogle, ECG coordinator, says demand for the plots was already high before COVID-19 hit, and she turns many requests down.
The “renters” are local residents, most of whom are experienced gardeners but have little-to-no garden space where they live. Fogle says they’re a diverse group, including several plots rented by people of color and young as well as older people. A community garden like the ECG can help overcome several barriers that a low-income person may have to gardening, including owning enough land and paying for irrigation water. Tools are not provided at the ECG.
Khalil English has a vision for another kind of community garden.
English, of the North Central Washington Black Lives Matter Action Council, has been talking with community members and local organizations in hopes of creating a community garden space, not in the traditional sense, but “a community-based food forest that highlights regenerative agriculture that is a space for our community to come together and celebrate all of our cultural diversity, for children to come in and get education and build that connection at the right age.”
A similar example is the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, which mimics a woodland ecosystem and where some gleaning is allowed.
“I think that’s a really, really important thing for our community, especially placing it in south Wenatchee, because we have a ridiculously segregated community and to have a space near people’s homes that they can go to get food for free, where they can go to get education, where they can go to relax in a safe space,” English said.
Fogle also agrees that gardening offers people more than just food. “It offers them the experience of the outdoors and the accompanying failures and successes that come with working with nature,” she says. “I believe anything that exposes people to the whims of nature while providing something of benefit to them is of high value.”
Jana Fischback is executive director of Sustainable Wenatchee, a nonprofit that promotes a culture of environmental stewardship and social sustainability in the Wenatchee Valley.