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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Congratulations! Sharing Garden Wins Awards!

Renee Forrer and Chris Burns. Renee showed up every Monday to harvest for the South Benton Nutrition Program, a twice-weekly lunch for local Seniors. Thanks to her nomination, we received this year's Distinguished Service Award from the Tri-Counties Chamber of Commerce. What an honor!
This year, the Sharing Garden has received two "Distinguished Service Awards". One from the Tri-Counties Chamber of Commerce and the second from Benton County's Extension Service (the agency that oversees the 4-H program). What follows is the acceptance speech we read at the Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Distinguished Service Award Acceptance Speech
"Anyone who has been following the news over the past 6 months knows that food security has become a global issue. Food-crops such as wheat, corn and rice have failed due to both droughts and flooding. Last week it was reported that more Americans are on Food Stamps than ever before and right here in our own communities we've seen the recent crises of two local Food Banks. God's Store-House in Harrisburg recently had to temporarily close their doors and Junction City's Local Aid also was facing the empty-shelf syndrome. Happily, both communities were able to rally and get the shelves re-stocked with donations.

We think it says a lot about the Tri-Counties area that you have seen enough value in the Sharing Gardens to honor us with this Distinguished Service Award. The 4-H group of Monroe, and the Benton County Extension Service have also presented us with a Distinguished Service Award this year so, we must be doing something right! Though Chris and I are standing here to receive the Award, the Sharing Gardens would not be possible without all the contributions made through donors and volunteers. The gardens thrive because they have become a hub for people to contribute and connect; each from the level and ability that feels right to them.
The land and water for the two sites have been provided free-of-charge. The tools, fencing, seeds, manure, spoiled hay, and everything else that we use to grow food, was all donated directly, or purchased with money received through gifts and grants. From mid-Spring through mid-Autumn volunteers have come to the gardens as often as three times a week to share in the joys and challenges of organic gardening. This award truly goes to everyone who has been a part of the gardens' success.

As many of you know, the food is grown collectively. There are no separate plots. This creates ease for watering, pest management and seed-saving. The harvest is shared with the volunteers and those who have contributed in some way and the surplus is distributed through local food banks and charities. We believe that no-one should ever go hungry, regardless of their circumstances, and so no one is ever charged money for the food that is grown.

2011, in spite of the cool, wet start, has been a very successful year. Our overall harvest increased by about 30 percent. The total amount grown was over 4,600 pounds!
In one week alone we harvested 583 pounds of tomatoes! 
And our overall lettuce harvest was close to 900 heads!
If the people being fed from the gardens had been able to afford to buy this organic produce at the market it would have cost them at least: $14,500 dollars! As Chris and I lived off our savings this year, and did not draw a stipend, the season's budget was only about $2,000 dollars. (A pretty good return on the investment!) (For a full report on amount of produce grown or our operating expenses, send us an email.)

In the interests of local food-security, part of our mission has been to grow-out and save seed from heirloom varieties of plants that thrive in our region. This has been a great year for seed-saving. Our seed-bank now contains over three, five-gallon buckets of vigorous, pure, Heirloom seeds especially adapted to local growing conditions.

So, what's next? We have a 10-point Mission Statement aimed towards local food self-reliance To read it, click here. Much of it is already in motion. In coming seasons we would like to:

Build a greenhouse – to extend our growing season and have the capacity to provide “starts” to other Sharing-type gardens in the region.
Create small local canneries – where people can learn and practice the art of food preservation.
Expand the seed-saving program to create a network of local gardeners and farmers.
Mentor other groups to start Sharing Gardens in Junction City, Harrisburg and the surrounding areas or beyond.

Ultimately we'd like to start a “rural-arts” school – a place where people could come to share their knowledge and experience of living close to the land through offering hands-on workshops, and where people could learn and transplant this knowledge back into the community.

The Sharing Gardens is a non-profit charitable program and we can issue tax-receipts for any donations. We can always put funds and materials to good use and we'd also love to find a land-base for the school and gardens. Please be in touch if you'd like to partner with us in this meaningful, pioneering adventure.

We'd like to close this presentation with a short story: 

Once upon a time, there was a group of people who found themselves in Hell. Now at first it didn't seem like Hell. They sat together around a large table that was covered with a sumptuous feast. Every favorite kind of food they could think of was there. Gorgeous salads and cheeses, soups, nuts, casseroles and pies. All the bounty of the Earth. The smells were intoxicating; the colors – a true work of art. What made this Hell was that the only utensils to eat the food were each three-feet long. No matter how long they stretched their arms and craned back their necks, they could get none of the food into their mouths and feed. They remained starving in the midst of a feast.

There was another group who found themselves in Heaven. Everything was the same: the beautifully laid banquet, the exquisite choices, the sights and aromas. Here too, the only utensils for eating were all three-feet long. The only difference was, that instead of trying to feed only themselves, the Heaven-crowd picked up the spoons and forks and began feeding each other. And in this way, they all were able to share in the feast. Thank you."

Christy Warden (left) nominated us for the Benton County's OSU Extension Service/4-H "Distinguished Service Award". She was the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce's "Citizen of the Year Award" for her dedication to our town's 4-H group. We are excited about our deepening collaboration. (Llyn Peabody on the right).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Giver's Gallery - A Year of Collaboration

Gallery of Givers: A selection of pictures from the 2011 season.
Linda Zielinsky - donated a block of Mason Bees (to get us started), and wrote a beautiful post about their life-cycle. Link

We always enjoyed it when kids came to play with us. We were careful never to call garden-time "work" and to let them know we enjoyed their visits whether they helped out or not. This way they didn't feel that we only saw them for what they had to give to us.
Kaitlynn - a member of 4-H joined us many times during the summer. Potato-digging was one of her favorite tasks. Kyra was visiting from out of town but jumped in with great enthusiasm.
Niko was one of our youngest helpers. he took his broccoli-watering task very seriously and did a great job. It's amazing to see the focus kids can hold if the value and enjoy what they're doing.
Dustin is one of those kids who didn't always want to garden with us but often stopped by to say "hi". On this one day he became engrossed in harvesting sun-flower seeds. I think he liked to harvest and take hoe something that he personally enjoys eating. it made the garden-time more meaningful for him.
Many people develop an aversion to worms, slugs and other "creepy-crawlies". Here, Serena, too young to "know better" makes friends with a garden gastropod.
Here's Ismael ("My") in the corn patch. That's Bantam corn behind him, a variety that doesn't usually grow taller than six-feet! Ours was nearing ten-feet this year!
Ricardo helping us to bring in the Delicata squash harvest.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Harvest Totals, Updates and Wishlist

This post covers the harvest totals for 2011- with some great harvest photos (be sure to scroll to the bottom for the gallery),  an update on the Great Monroe Leaf Drive, and a link to our ever-evolving wish-list.

Striped German - an Heirloom tomato - one of our favorites.
 Harvest Totals and new distribution partners:
Each week we had three volunteer sessions. On harvest days, people would gather the ripe produce and bring it to be washed, weighed and boxed for distribution. Volunteers would take a break shortly before the Food Bank opened and do their "shopping", taking home all they could use. The rest was wheel-barrowed over to the Food Bank - 50 yards away.

Harvest on display for volunteers to "shop". No one is ever charged money for the food that is grown.
First the totals from 2010 to give some perspective:

Our big producers in 2010 were:
Beans: 225 pounds
Cucumbers: 653 pounds
Tomatoes: 1,285 pounds
Total pounds: 3,533
Market value of total harvest: $9,950
In 2011, we expanded into using the full Monroe/Crowson garden plot (last year we only used about half of it). Even though we didn't plant the back half, Steve Rose had tilled it in the Spring of 2010 and we mulched it quite deeply with hay/straw. The garden was very fertile.
Here are the highlights of the 2011 harvests:

Lettuce: 877 heads
Potatoes: 910 pounds
Winter Squash: 291 pounds
Tomatoes: 2101 pounds
Market value of total harvest: $14,504
Genny with lettuce harvest.
We have made some new partnerships this year in distributing the surplus food. In 2010, we often found ourselves at the end of the Food Bank time, running around and trying to get people to take home more produce. We just didn't want to see any of it go to waste. This year we added a second harvest day in Monroe (the bigger of the two gardens). That mid-week harvest mostly went to the South Benton Nutrition Program - for their bi-weekly lunch for Seniors. When there was enough, we sent along vegetables for the Seniors themselves to take home.

We've made a great connection with Betty Briggs who, with her husband, Pat, oversees the Harrisburg Gleaners. The Gleaners group has many able-bodied members who glean fruits and vegetables from local farmers and share the harvest with "adopted" families and people in need in the Harrisburg area. Betty's group has many people who still "can" and store food so they were able to distribute our surplus to those who would make good use of it. Towards the end of the season, Betty began to come help in the gardens as well. We anticipate deepening the connection between our two groups next Spring - either they will come volunteer more in the Monroe garden and/or we'll help them get a Sharing Garden started closer to where they live. (If anyone has a lead on some land we could use to start a Harrisburg garden, let us know).

Peppers from 2010

Linn/Benton Food Share has also helped us with our surplus. They deliver food to the Monroe Food Bank every other week. Often we just boxed up what wasn't taken by Food Bank customers and they would transport it to a soup-kitchen/food bank in Corvallis to be distributed.

Chris and I also had fun playing "Santa" some weeks and drove around Monroe to friends and local businesses passing out beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and whatever else was ripe, off the tailgate of our trusty 1968 GMC pick-up truck!

The Great Monroe Leaf Drive

Well, it was supposed to happen on November the 5th but the weather was lousy and frankly, there aren't that many leaves that have fallen yet. We've postponed it till further notice but we still welcome any leaves brought to either garden.  LOCATIONS

Please no trash, dog-doo or walnut leaves (they're toxic to plant growth.)

Our Ever-Evolving Wish-list: Mostly it's the same old stuff: garden supplies and building materials that need a new home/second life. There are a few new specifics though we'd appreciate you keeping an eye out for...

We're going to build another greenhouse! We'd like to make it from two steel-tube carports attached end-to-end. If you know of a used one (or two) that need a new purpose, please let us know. Here's a picture of what we're looking for (or something similar). We'll need two that are the same. We don't need the tarp covering.

We need two carport canopies to build a greenhouse with.
Please bring us your leaves for garden mulch. Bring them to either garden.
Fruit and nuts: If you have windfall fruit or nuts that you'd like to donate, please bring them to the food bank so they can be shared with those in need. If you are physically unable to harvest them yourselves contact us and we will do our best to arrange for volunteers to assist. Link to Food Bank Hours
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Filberts
  • Walnuts
We need a mechanic who's good with small-engine repair: Our roto-tillers and lawn mowers get quite a work-out! The gardens would really benefit from someone who likes to tinker and tune up small engines to keep them running well. We'll keep you supplied with lots of fresh, organic produce! For the full Wish-List - GO TO

It is always such a delight to see Nature's abundance and beauty as we harvest the gardens. Here is a gallery showing some of this year's highlights. Enjoy!

Lettuce, Beans and Apples:

Red Iceberg Lettuce
Never eat anything bigger than your head!
A beautiful mix of greens and reds.
Scarlet Runner Beans
"Winter Bananas" - a great storage apple
Gleaned apples.
It's great to see these apples going to feed people and not just rot on the ground.
Sunflowers: Beauty, food for us and the birds!

Saving seeds to grow sprouts (winter greens) and next year's crop.
We saved gallons of seed this year.
Squash, Cukes and Potatoes:

Pickling cucumbers in the hay.
Squash harvest.
Delicata Squash - sweet, golden meat and tender skin.
Buttercup Squash - hearty, orange/golden meat.
This potato weighed three pounds!

Tomato Gallery:  
Another "Striped German" - low acid. All yumm!
These are called "Long Toms" - a delicious paste tomato
A whole tray of "Long Toms" - the river that runs close by our garden is called the "Long Tom" too!
"Hillbilly Potato Leaf"Tomatoes
A succulent "Brandywine" tomato
Close-up of a "Striped German"
If you are receiving this email as a "forward" and would like to see our full Sharing Gardens website/blog, GO TO