Sadly, after 11 great growing seasons, the George Fox Community Garden is no more. From 2007-2017, students, staff, faculty, alumni, and Newberg community members gathered weekly during the growing season for planting, weeding, harvesting, and sharing meals together. 2-4 students served as interns each summer, and we also had interns during the school year from the spiritual life office, and from majors such as Christian ministries, social work, and business economics/finance.
The university will now be using the land for a greenhouse for the plant services department. The greenhouse will grow native plants, which will be planted on campus and also sold to the Newberg community in order to encourage proliferation of native plants in our region. It will also be used by the biology department for student experiments.
Though we are sad to see the garden go, it is great to look back on all the years of yummy local food we grew, and the community we built with other garden members.
Harvesting has been the main goal each time in the garden for the past few weeks. After months of planting, weeding, watering, and gentle care, we are reaping the benefits. The first few weeks there was just enough to feed those who worked in the garden that day, with maybe a few tomatoes, berries, or snap peas to take home for another meal. However, the past few weeks there has been a surplus of produce—almost too much to fit on the table. The produce is served at the potluck, and then everyone working in the garden that week takes plenty of produce home. However, we still always have plenty of produce left for Julie, our food access and community connection intern, to take to local food banks.
This week we harvested tomatoes, kale, cabbage, lettuce, basil, zucchini, squash, beets, carrots, onions, eggplants, and blackberries. Julie was able to take a lot of this produce to food banks in Newberg. People in need of fresh food and nutrients were given what they needed from our garden. It is easy to remember that the “community” in community garden means those who come each week to work in the garden, but “community” also means those in our local community who are in need. By working in the garden and harvesting large amounts of produce, we are able, as a community, to care for those in need, and I think that may be one of the best things about this garden.
This is my last blog post as the documentation intern for our community garden. Summer is ending, and I will be heading back to school for my final year. This summer seemed to fly by so much more quickly than I expected. It is easy to forget how many weeds I’ve pulled, produce I’ve harvested, or seedlings I planted. However, looking back, it was a productive summer. I had never worked in a garden before, and the experience is one I am grateful to have. I have learned and grown so much this summer with the help of those in the garden. Weekly blog posts have helped center my feelings about the garden’s process, and people in the community have helped me learn how to help a garden grow and stay healthy. Through that experience, I have learned more about how to keep myself healthy. I have learned to take life one step at a time. I now know sometimes you need weeds pulled from your life, or some pruning, but other times you just need to be loved and nurtured. Nature and humanity aren’t all that different, and I think when we realize that, we become more whole.
This week consisted of mostly harvesting because so many of our plants are growing tremendous amounts of produce. We harvested blackberries, onions, cucumber, lemon cucumber, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, basil, figs, green beans, and peas. Even though all the people who helped that day each took large amounts of produce home there was still plenty for Julie, our food access and community connection intern, to take to food banks.
While harvesting, I asked Cherice which squash plants were ready to be harvested and which needed more time. Cherice pointed out the winter squash, that would still have several months before being ripe, and the summer squash plants that are currently producing copious amounts. If I were to try to harvest the winter squash now, it wouldn’t be edible, and it would take away from the delicious squash we would have been able to have a couple months from now.
This made me think of a few different aspects of human life, one being childhood. There are many children who come with their families to the garden. Most of the time they play and explore the outdoors, and sometimes they help with the simpler tasks of the garden. However, they are allowed to live their lives as children—playing and having fun. If children are given adult responsibilities too young, they usually aren’t able to handle that, and it also takes away from their childhood. In anything, if a person does it before they are trained or ready, it won’t work.
The months before a winter squash is ripe aren’t idle. They are spent growing and nurturing the plant. The years during childhood, or the training for a skill, aren’t idle. Letting children play and slowly learn about the world is not idle time. It is time for them to grow. Training for a skill ensures you will actually be able to carry it out properly. Don’t forget that time working towards a goal is time well spent!
This summer we have three interns: Elliot Coulter (that’s me!), Emma Bloomquist, and Julie Litchfield. I thought it would be nice to hear from another intern and how her summer projects are coming along. This week Julie has written a paragraph introducing herself and what she does in our garden. Julie is the food access and community connection intern with our garden, and she has contributed greatly to our garden and the community this summer. Below is the paragraph she kindly shared:
“Being an intern at the community garden this year includes attending weekly gatherings, eating a delicious meal every week, and dropping off extra produce to Newberg FISH emergency service. This acronym stands for “friends in service to humanity” and is a great way to not only build community between those who attend the gatherings, but also reach out beyond our own group. There is something special about working for the food we eat, and this is even better knowing that people in Newberg are receiving these healthy food items to feed their families. Upon graduation from George Fox University, I plan to further my education and become a nurse practitioner. Diet is one aspect of wholistic health sometimes overlooked in the medical field with all the new technology coming out. A plant based diet is one of the most important aspects of preventative health and I love getting the opportunity help these families and bring the whole community closer together.”
We are so glad to have Julie on our team this summer, and it wouldn’t be the same without her! Emma Bloomquist, our third intern, helped give me information for the No-Till Farming blog post. Check that out to learn a bit about how she’s helped out this summer!
Although the tomato plants have been given support several times now, they just continue to grow. So in good spirits, we were able to give more support to the tomatoes so they can stand tall. Many of the tomato plants are looking very close to ripe, so next week we should be able to harvest some tomatoes. This week we were able to harvest many other plants, though. We harvested several types of basil, blackberries, a couple small tomatoes, onions, cucumber, and lots of large zucchinis.
The zucchini was the largest harvest we had this week. There were so many zucchinis this week, many of us were unsure what to do with the amount we had.
Since many other people are likely getting a large amount of zucchinis from their garden, or taking them home from our garden, I thought it’d be nice to bring up some good ideas for what to do with zucchini. I know that my favorite thing to do with zucchinis (and how I’ll be using most of them) is to make zucchini fritters. There is a good recipe at this site. My favorite thing to do is make zucchini fritters with mashed potatoes and gravy. I could eat it all day.
Other options are, of course, zucchini bread, muffins, or cookies. Cherice also mentioned that you can just cut them up and fry them, or you can freeze some zucchini to use during the winter. We encounter this problem (a good problem to have, really!) pretty much every year, so here’s a post from a few years ago with some other ideas for using zucchini. Hopefully, you’re able to find good ways to use your zucchinis this year. I know I’m excited to use mine!
This week we had a great turnout at the garden and a wonderful potluck. Garden members participated in weeding, provided more layers of structure and support for the growing tomatoes and beans, harvested, and placed wood chips over the burgeoning potatoes. Some of our members put lime around the zucchini plants to help with the blossom rot last week, so we started getting some yummy zucchini!
Lately, I’ve been thinking about environmentally friendly ways to garden. Emma Bloomquist is one of the interns with the Community Garden this year. As a biology major, she gives a lot of thought for how to better care for the garden and the plants in it. My first day working with her, Emma brought up that she was looking into no-till farming (also known as direct drilling or zero tillage). Thinking this would be good for the environment, and a good way to save water, Emma has considered how it would work for our garden. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what no-till farming is and how it can benefit a garden. Likely obvious from the name, this type of gardening is one in which the soil is not tilled or overly disturbed. Tilling ground can kill pre-existing organic matter which would have helped water and air find paths in the soil. When roots are given the chance to grow, they pierce through the soil and as they decay there is space for water and air to come through. Because of this, irrigation is also not needed in a no-till system. This means the land is allowed to grow naturally the way it was meant to. Tilling can also be bad for soil because soil has both sand and clay. The sand is porous, allowing water to pass through, while the clay soaks the water up and stores it. These particles are held together, but when tilled they are broken apart and can no longer function correctly. Not only is it better on the land, it is better for the farmer or gardener. There is less labor during the planting season and during upkeep, and irrigation systems are not needed. There are considerations to take when pursuing no-till farming, and it is difficult the first year trying it. However, in the long run it seems to encourage a healthier relationship with the land.
In our garden, we do employ something similar. We do irrigate, but we do not till, other than one area that was tilled last year. Rather, we build up the soil using compost, wood chips, and cardboard. If you’re interested in no-till farming, Hanley Farm in Medford, Oregon is a large farm that uses no-till farming. For a basic overview of no-till farming, visit the Wikipedia page.