Grange Garden Grant Evaluation

QUIMPER GRANGE FOOD BANK GARDEN EVALUATION FOR
TRI-AREA GARDEN CLUB 2020 GRANT 

September 27, 2020

The Quimper Food Bank Garden has supplied thousands of pounds of fresh, organically grown produce annually to the Port Townsend Food Bank. In 2019, over 2,900 pounds were donated to the Port Townsend Food Bank, which served 16,463 households last year. Current utilization of the area food banks has increased by 800 more families since the onset of the corona virus pandemic. Quimper Food Bank Garden is committed to increase food production to meet that demand.

Quimper Food Bank Garden supplies a wide variety of organically grown vegetables through all four seasons, and fruit during the summer. Until this grant, potatoes had not been grown due to garden space constraints. We wished to expand our operations and add potatoes to our crops, using fabric pots to increase the available growing area. Using fabric pots facilitated the ability offer an organic potato at the food bank, created a system to facilitate harvesting, kept small potato seed from sprouting in undesirable locations, and aided with weed suppression.

EVALUATION:

The stated evaluation plan was to gather anecdotal evidence from the Port Townsend Food Bank customers through volunteers who work at the food bank.

Regular food bank volunteers are aware of specific food bank customers who, for health reasons, are unable to eat non-organic produce, potatoes being a specific vegetable of concern. These identified customers were offered organically grown potatoes through this grant. Despite the onset of the Covid- 19 virus, where it was more difficult for direct interaction with customers as in years past, volunteers did hear from a number of people how appreciative they were to be offered the organic potatoes in lieu of non-organic. This extra level of care provided a much-needed boost, both nutritionally and emotionally, especially during this time of pandemic.

The harvest of the potato bags was quite simple. Placing a 1/2” screened box over a wheelbarrow, one bag at a time was dumped and sorted. This kept the work elevated to table height, ensuring that any of our volunteers could harvest with ease. Nearly all of the very small potato seed was captured by the screen, keeping it out of the re-usable soil, as per our plan. The sifted soil was then amended with compost, and replaced back into an emptied bag for replanting.

In addition, the rows of fabric pots along our fence line completely damped down weed growth. This was the first year that we did not have to weed the interior fence line.

Looking at the harvest numbers, we felt there should be a greater crop yield. We did some research, and discovered some possible explanations:

  1. WSU Extension Growing Groceries instructors have heard from a number of people that their potato crops did not do well this year, possibly due to a blight.
  2. The fabric pots dry out much more quickly than if the crop was grown in the ground. Initially watered by hand, a soaker hose was installed in mid-June, but a number of plants had ceased to thrive by that time.
  3. Layers of straw was alternated with soil, but because of the rapid drying of fabric in #2 above, the straw was likely an additional factor in drying.

Quimper Grange Food Bank Garden is grateful for the opportunity that your grant provided to “think out of the box” with this project. In the spirit of sustainability, the fabric pots, and the remaining soil, are being used again immediately. A fall crop of radicchio, radish and elephant garlic were planted in the pots, re-using the potato soil and supplementing with remaining compost. We are committed to try the potato project again next year. We believe our harvest will be much better next year, and will keep the Tri-Area Garden Club apprised.

TOTAL GRANT REQUEST (Granted $334.00)$333.88$344.63$10.63 overage covered with a donation to Quimper FB Garden
Black fabric bags filled with soil and potatoes line the interior of the fence
Potatoes dumped into a screen over a wheelbarrow re-captures all the soil and most of the small seeds.
Final packaging and ready to deliver to the Port Townsend Food Bank!

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