Growing “Food Security “

This is an article focusing on the Quimper Grange Food Bank Garden located in Port Townsend, WA. It was published by the Port Townsend Leader.

Click here to go to The Leader’s page.

Growing ‘food security’

Growing 'food security'

Growing ‘food security’

Behind the historic Quimper Grange hall grows a garden that supplies thousands of pounds of organic fruits and vegetables to the Port Townsend Food Bank.

“The garden is one of the things that we are contributing to the community,” said Maria Streator, president of Quimper Grange.

In 2014, the Grange signed a memorandum of understanding with Food Bank Farm and Gardens (FBFG) of Jefferson County Inc. to allow use of the garden space indefinitely. FBFG received its 501(c) (3) nonprofit status in May 2015.

That year, volunteer gardeners grew and gave away about 3,000 pounds of food, said secretary/treasurer Emily Stewart.

Stewart moved to Port Townsend two years ago from Chicago, where she had helped coordinate a community garden. “I was looking for a project,” she said. She didn’t have a job her first summer here, and helped out at the Grange garden almost every day.

“She’s quick and efficient, and young!” said Jo Yount, no slouch herself in the food bank garden. Yount also serves as vice president of the nonprofit, which also manages food bank gardens at Mountain View Commons and at Port Townsend High School; its president is Lys Burden.

FGFB has a core group of about five gardeners, plus about 100 volunteers, including students from Port Townsend High School and people from United Good Neighbors and Gray Wolf Ranch.

And the gardens are growing, literally; especially the Grange garden, set to receive a second hoop-house greenhouse in May, expanding possibilities for year-round production.

The garden supplies the food bank with collard greens, chard, broccoli, herbs (such as basil, rosemary, sage and chives), rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, several kinds of beans, peas, beets, kale, carrots, radishes, fennel and various lettuces. It doesn’t supply onions or potatoes, which the food bank gets at low cost in large quantities from elsewhere, Stewart said.

The PT Food Bank is located at Mountain View Commons, 1910 Blaine St., and is open on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturdays (seniors 55 and older only) from noon to 2 p.m.

SMALL FARM

At the height of growing season last summer, the Grange garden supplied about 125 pounds of produce twice a week.

“It’s basically a small working farm,” said Kathy Ryan, an at-large FBFG member and an experienced farmer. “This is a sizable contribution toward food security in the area.” She added that food bank president Shirley Moss takes care to provide organic vegetables to people who want or need them.

And it makes the farmers feel good.

“If you want to have a good day, just drop stuff off at the food bank,” Stewart said.

Another benefit of volunteering at the Grange garden is free produce, as well as the pleasures of gardening.

“It helps you feel really grounded,” Ryan punned.

“It’s very casually run here,” Stewart said. “We have fun. It’s a relaxing pastime.”

The grounded gardeners harvest either on Tuesday and Friday evenings, or in the mornings on food bank days. That entails gathering, washing and then packaging the produce in bags or boxes.

The new hoop house should arrive in May, and they’re also building a new washing table for produce. Totes filled with rainwater are to be replaced with a long washing table equipped with an outdoor utility sink.

Yount, Ryan and Stewart are also glad to have a new deer fence protecting the Grange’s food bank garden.

“We’ve had an awful problem with deer,” Ryan said, as she stood surrounded by succulent lettuces.

Stephen Cade, a professional landscaper and food bank volunteer, donated his time to build the new fence around the 7,000-square-foot garden. There is also about 1,000 feet of space outside the fence for storage and composting, Yount said.

A new beehive is also on its way to the Grange garden, thanks to Karen Kastel, who is also the FBFG gleaning coordinator.

GLEANING, TOO

“Gleaning has expanded, which is part of the reason Lys [Burden] is reorganizing [the garden at] Mountain View Commons,” Ryan said. There are plans to turn that garden into a “you-pick” garden; part of it is also worked by kids from the YMCA who are growing their own snacks. Stewart noted that at peak productivity, items such as peas and blueberries are time-consuming to harvest.

Gleaning is the gathering of leftover or extra produce after a harvest; for example, when fruit ripens all at once, gleaners gather and distribute those apples, plums and pears that would otherwise fall unused from local trees. If you have a fruit tree that produces more fruit than you can use, contact Kastel at hahgleaningjc@gmail.com or 531-2536. She also gathers leftover food from Fort Worden’s food services for distribution, helping package, for example, leftover soup that would otherwise go to waste.

To voluneer

The Grange garden is a relaxing, pleasant place to be. Volunteers of all ages, experience and skill levels are welcome. Those interested can call …

360-531-2536 or 517-231-1332, or email ptfoodbankgarden@gmail.com.

“This is a sizable contribution to food security in the area.”

Kathy Ryan member Food Bank Farm and Gardens

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