The benefits of a community garden are many and varied. They provide learning opportunities for new gardeners. They create a sense of community spirit among those who participate. And, they create access to gardening land for those who may not otherwise have any. This last point is crucial: According to research from Ohio State University and Cornell University, children are five times more likely to eat salad when they have grown it themselves.
These reasons are why Willamalane is proud to partner with Thurston Community Garden to open a 24-plot space for Thurston-area residents to lease, grow, and enjoy. The garden located just north of Splash! at Lively Park. It is open for all skill levels and will include classes, tools, and other amenities.
"This is a really great piece of land because the proximity to the dog park, playground, toilets, and parking make it easy to access," said Jeannie Evans, who leads the Thurston Community Garden initiative. "It's quiet back here, and it's serene with the walking path. It's ideal."
Jeannie, along with a small group of volunteers, formed the Thurston Community Garden after FOOD for Lane County sponsored an assessment of Thurston-area needs. "The community wanted more resources for low-income families in the area, as well as a community garden," Jeannie said.
In addition to land provided by Willamalane, the garden also benefits from a $30,000 Community Giving Grant from Weyerhaeuser and administrative services from Catholic Community Services. One staff member, Ishbel Lane, is in charge of coordinating construction and garden management. Volunteers have also proven crucial in the garden's development.
"This is more than just a garden," Jeannie said. A large space is reserved for a Pantry Garden, which will supply its harvest to Thurston-area food pantries. Additionally, "We're going to have a Harvest Table where community members can gather and get to know each other. There'll be a children's area in the back corner. We're going to have blueberries that people can pick and eat. There'll be community educational events around composting," Jeannie said. Activities planned all summer make the garden a place of learning in addition to growing.
Garden plots are available to be rented for the whole March-to-November season. Small 200-square food plots are $20 for the season, and large 400-square foot plots are $40 for the season. Scholarships are available to offset some of that cost. Apply for your plot at thurstoncommunitygarden.org.