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A Place to Grow

July 31, 2015

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1438962627187{border-top-width: 10px !important;border-right-width: 15px !important;border-bottom-width: 10px !important;border-left-width: 10px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”]By Carl Segerstrom

Amidst a residential neighborhood near downtown Coeur d’Alene somethingShared Harvest beautiful is happening. A gathering place to build community and share nature’s bounty is growing.  Food overflows from raised beds overshadowed only by the towering sunflowers and mature oak trees that cover the quaint amphitheatre and picnic tables in this welcoming common space.  The Shared Harvest Community Garden on the corner of 10th St. and Foster Ave. of Coeur d’Alene proves true to its motto as a place for growing, learning, and giving.

Using communal land for food production is not a new idea. It is however enjoying a popular resurgence as more and more people seek alternatives to the products of industrial agriculture. In Coeur d’Alene we are lucky enough to have outstanding examples of community gardens in the St. Luke’s Community Garden on Wallace St. near downtown, the Community Roots’ Gathering Garden on the Northern Idaho College Campus, and the Shared Harvest Garden which acts as a hub for community building and food assistance distribution.

Community gardens offer a unique, tangible, and productive venue for local citizens to engage in the food system and experience the benefits of personal and community food production.  While many may not have personal access to land to grow on or previous experience gardening, community gardens offer individuals space to grow and access to a community of gardeners upon whose knowledge they can draw.  Our local community gardens seek to engage individuals in food production, promote organic and permaculture practices, and are dedicated to serving the community through contributions to local food assistance facilities.

Growing at Shared Harvest starts with a basic but little understood part of the lifecycle of a garden: death.  Against the eastern edge of the garden is a three-stage composting bin that turns last summer’s plant matter into next spring’s fertile soil.  Building on and further contributing to the fertility of the gardens is the vermiculture demonstration or simply put worm box.  The wooden box that houses the worms, which looks similar to a bee box, collects the worm’s castings that serve as a potent natural and organic fertilizer for nutrient hungry plants.  Through the composting and vermiculture installations in the garden, fertility is promoted and knowledge of sustainable and regenerative natural growing practices is propagated.

The fertile soil of the garden creates an ideal canvas on which gardeners craft their individual contributions to a beautiful and bountiful food system.  A veritable rainbow of tomatoes ripens on vines, surrounded by clusters of kale, sprawling squash, and bunches of onions.  Shared Harvest is a testament to the value of diversity in small-scale food production as scores of different plants spring from the boxes and rows of the neighborhood oasis.  The garden is a refuge for novel varieties of heirloom fruits and vegetables that are so lacking in our mainstream supermarket culture.

During a recent visit to Shared Harvest I had the chance to sample some delicious cinnamon basil cultivated by Jordan Cook, a Hayden resident who appreciates the convenience of the garden and whose plot is a testament to the creative energy permeating the garden.  Complete with two different types of pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce, and an ascending herb spiral, Jordan’s personal plot is a microcosm of the greater diversity and production happening around the garden.  As he kindly introduced me to his plot and let me sample his herbs, he pointed out the stump of a romaine lettuce plant he had just harvested as a contribution to another outstanding aspect of Shared Harvest, the Community Roots food share.

Inland NW Food Network - Community Roots Gathering GardenThe Community Roots local food share, a program of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance (KEA) hosted at the Shared Harvest garden, unites the community gardens and local producers to provide fresh food to more than a dozen local food assistance facilities.  Plots in the Shared Harvest garden donate half of their produce to the Community Roots food share, which also receives generous contributions from the KEA sponsored Community Roots’ Gathering Garden, the community garden at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and local gardeners and farmers.  Produce is collected at the Shared Harvest Garden each Wednesday from July 8th to October 7th between 5:30 and 7:30PM and all are encouraged to donate any extra produce they glean from their gardens.

Shared Harvest and Community Roots represent the power and ingenuity of local people dedicated to building community through food production and donation.  These programs stand as great examples of the value of collaboration in growing and sharing food as well as knowledge.  As they continue to mature and evolve these programs will be able to adapt to meet new challenges and provide additional services to their communities.  Community greenhouse space to jump-start the short growing season and a seed sharing cooperative to preserve heirloom and locally adapted plant varieties are both potential spaces for these programs to explore and grow into in years to come.  Much like the gardens they represent these community organizations have a fertile foundation and will only continue to thrive and grow in the future.  The bounty will be plentiful.

Contact Carl at carlsegerstrom@yahoo.com[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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