One of the things many of us can take for granted is access to fresh, organically grown produce year-round. But this availability for some remains economically-tied; lower-income households have to sometimes make different food choices in order to feed their families.
A local organization that has been around for more than ten years, Growing Gardens believes the access to good, fresh food is not only essential for the health of our citizens and our communities – it is also potentially accessible in ways closer to home and for those on limited income.
Their Home Garden Program works with selected low-income households in a three-year partnership/mentorship program: the household is visited by a group of GG volunteers who set up and help construct the garden site, providing compost and labor to get the garden beds off to a good start; they then provide seeds, starts and fertilizer; and if needed, a Garden Mentor who will act as a resource to help the household gardener learn what they need to successfully grow their own food.
There are also classes and workshops, open to the public as well as program participants at a sliding scale, on a variety of relevant topics from gardening tips to cooking delicious meals with fresh food to preserving the remainders of the harvest by various means and saving seed for the next year’s garden.
Growing Gardens is also taking their message to the next generation of gardeners. The Youth Grow program currently operates three after school gardening programs in schools and activity centers, providing materials and support for teachers and parent volunteers to help establish sustaining gardening programs that can successfully be maintained from year to year.
The program is gradually expanding to include teenage gardening activities as well as a parent-child summer gardening workshop series. They are also active partners with Portland Public Schools’ Nutrition Services in supporting the “Farm Fresh Harvest of the Month” program.
Some statistics for Growing Gardens:
- More than 600 home gardens installed since 1966
- Over 600 students every year learning about growing and eating tasty and healthy food through the Youth Grow program
This is impressive, especially when accomplished with a staff of only six, including two AmeriCorps interns. But behind them is a dedicated crew of hundreds of volunteers who share their vision. They have received several awards in the areas of sustainability and community service, and were recently chosen to be a recipient of this year’s Feinstein Foundation matching grant.
Growing Gardens is one of Portland Nursery’s annual recipients of leftover seed donations, seeds that would otherwise be destroyed.
For more information on their great work, visit the Growing Gardens website.
For information on how we can help, please send an email to Corina Reynolds Stearns