Community garden nears completion
May 26, 2009
By David Hayes
50 volunteers turn out to help
Sustainable Issaquah had the idea. AtWork! had the land. At an April 22 work party, all interested constituents came together to map out plans to develop a new community garden.
Sustainable Issaquah, a new community group that champions ecofriendly projects, had decided a community garden would be one of its projects.
AtWork!, a center that provides people with disabilities training to be productive, integrated and contributing members of the community, had the space, on land it leases from the city. AtWork! CEO Chris Brandt thought it would be a good use of the 3,000 square feet of landscape.
“We thought it would be better to use it than just mow it,” Brandt said.
Highlands resident Tariq Panni, who helped build a garden for his community, was asked to help.
“It all came together very quickly with less cost and twice the enthusiasm as the garden I did before,” Panni said.They figured that a few volunteers working three weekends could get the garden up and running. Brandt said they expected maybe 10-15 people would show up the first day, May 8. Instead, there were 50. The first phase was completed in one day, rather than two.
The plan is to divide the roughly 53-by 53-square foot space into 24 lots, with about 25 percent earmarked to raise food for humanitarian purposes, such as for the Issaquah Food Bank.
Another section would later be built up on raised beds for easy access for the handicapped.
Panni said now was the perfect time to plan the garden.
“In these tough times, we’re seeing a return to family values,” he said. “Gardening offers a place for the community to be involved. I’m always inspired by reaction of the community to ideas like this.”
Volunteers blew through the first two phases, digging up the sod, rototilling the compost, adding fertilizer and readying the garden for the last step of adding bark between plots.
Brandt said the garden would be open to anyone interested in participating from the community. A couple of AtWork! participants have even expressed interest in getting their own plot.
“This is a great idea for people with special needs,” Brandt said, “especially those with autism — teaching them the patience of waiting for the seeds to grow, then pick, cook and eat the fruits of their labor.”
But they’ve already had more signups than there are plots. A second phase of adding 17 or 18 more plots are in the works.
The garden organizers met May 21 to develop a plot allocation plan. Brandt said a plot application would go out to those already on their e-mail list, with a deadline to apply of May 28.
“Plots will be allocated first to those who have volunteered the most time and made the most in-kind contributions,” she said.
Afterward, it’s first-come, first-served.
There are 18 plots with six others set aside for growing food for the food bank and for AtWork! clients to help garden.
Rules for the plots were also developed at the meeting, including:
-Plots are $40 per year.
-Everyone must contribute four hours per month to the six community plots.
-Two plots were set aside at a reduced rate for low-income people or people with disabilities.
-Anyone interested in applying for a plot should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandt said they are looking for donations, including a shed, preferably 4-by-6 feet, and garden tools, a wheelbarrow and materials to build a deer fence.
Brandt said they are having a move-in garden party tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. May 30.
If you go
AtWork! community garden party
10 a.m. May 30
690 N.W. Juniper St.