Gardening to put food on the table is a time-honored tradition, and often a solitary pursuit. In recent years, the physical and mental benefits of gardening have been well-known, even when a person is the sole caretaker of a plot. Why not add another benefit to digging in the dirt, and cooperate to plan a community garden?
Community gardening is gaining ground, not only to provide food for families and local food banks, but also as a way for people to interact and forge lasting connections and build a stronger community.
One such community gardening effort, Gardeners for Regional Organic Wellbeing, or GROW!, was organized in 2009 in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, just south of the Canadian border in gardening Zone 4.
GROW! worked three garden sites during the last gardening season, providing gardening opportunities for people living in apartments or for those looking for a neighborhood connection. The largest GROW! garden is on land donated by the local Trinity Lutheran Church. The organization also provides education for planting, growing, harvesting, food storage and composting.
The sites total 36 gardening plots – each measuring 4 by 20 feet – which are available for community members. The three gardens are maintained by volunteers, schoolchildren, a part-time employee and a member of the Youth Conservation Corps.
The garden group provides fruits and vegetables to a local food bank, and sells some of its produce to purchase flour, rice and sugar for the food bank. The organization also connects to the school system by providing on-site lessons about food sources. GROW! makes food available to the local senior center and to churches or other groups that provide a place for food distribution.
The group’s future project, Vision for GROW!, aims to establish a community center that will provide a place for exercise and communication, as well as facilities for food storage and kitchens for processing food.
GROW! meets twice a month, and funding needs are met through individual donations, plot fees and grants. For more information, visit the GROW! website at GrowBoundaryCounty.org, or call 208-267-7374.
Jerry Pavia contributes regularly to GRIT by sharing his love of garden photography.