Saturday, August 22, 2009
Portland Community Garden Work Day
Just when I lose faith in humanity I am inspired & in awe of the community spirit and generosity demonstrated by the people of Portland. A week ago I read an article in the Oregonian about the vandalism of the Earl Boyle's Community Garden. This is a relatively new community garden in outer Southeast Portland near SE Holgate & 112th. It is in the park behind Ron Russel Middle School. The community garden is patronized by local low-income families, Russian immigrants, the elderly and an elementary school. Throughout the spring it was subject to numerous small acts of vandalism. Last week it was virtually destroyed by a major and senseless act of vandalism. When I read this in the paper I was heartbroken. I felt so sad for these people and could not figure out WHY someone would do this. I immediately called the Community Garden office to help in any way I could. I volunteered for the upcoming work party to help rebuild and volunteered to bring seeds & fall veggie starts from my own garden. It's not a lot but as a gardener my heart ached for this people. I talked with my friend Peggy, the community outreach director, at my job and she donated 2 flats of veggie starts and seeds on behalf of Portland Nursery.
When I headed over to the community garden this morning it was the first time I had been there. It's on my side of town, but not my neighborhood. I expected a small turn-out of people. I was shocked by how many volunteers showed up to help the cause. There were easily 50 people there. Apparently the office had over 200 calls during the week with offers of support. I added our plants to the row of already 20 flats of veggie starts. There was a truckload of compost & soil amendments from Concentrates Inc, a guy with a rototiller, entire piles of tools. Then New Seasons & Fred Meyer grocery stores showed up with loads of fresh produce. It was all bagged up so each gardener who's plot was destroyed now had replacement food. A construction company designed and was building a secure shed for gardeners to store their tools safely on site.
People of all ages were there to help, children alongside senior citizens. The Mayor Sam Adams, City Commissioner Nick Fish, the head of Portland Parks, the Commander of eastside Portland Police, and Leslie the founder of the Portland Community Gardens were all there to speak at an uplifting rally. I worked alongside police officers, park rangers, neighbors from all over Portland. I met some of the gardeners who have plots at this garden. A Russian woman who spoke no English, a deaf woman, and Richard...
I spent the morning working on Richard's small plot. Richard is an elderly man in a wheelchair. He loves to garden. With him are his children, grandchildren, and great grand daughter. Richard's small plot at the community garden contained corn, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, egglplants, cauliflower and beets. The vandals chopped down his corn, broke his tomato plants, removed his cauliflower plants entirely and picked his one pumpkin off it's vine. Richard planted that pumpkin for his Great Nephew to have as his halloween jack-o-lantern. As Richard tells me the story of what was in his garden he and I both tear up. Seriously, this elderly man in a wheelchair flying an American flag. It's killing me. I am devastated at the senselessness of the vandalism. Why? Why would anyone do this? In addition to Richard's family, our work party consisted of me & 3 other volunteers. 2 of whom were senior citizens who had the need to help like I did. We weeded Richard's garden plot and removed all the dead material. Then the guy with the rototiller came by and tilled the soil. We fertilized and got busy planting. A woman from La Grande drove all the way over that morning with 5 huge 3 gallon containers of tomatoes and eggplants. She dug them up from her own garden to bring and share. Richard was planting these luscious fruiting plants in his garden. A blessed miracle that will allow him to harvest summer crops after his were destroyed. Richard was very sad and not understanding why someone would take all his cauliflower plants. I was happy to tell him I brought traypacks of cauliflower seedlings! We planted more cauliflower today. He would have his cauliflower if I have to patrol that place at night with a shotgun!
The city collected all the debris to take and compost. Some life will come out of the senseless destruction. I met many new people and was in complete awe of the community spirit of generosity. I signed up for the community foot patrol to protect this garden. Nick Fish & Sam Adams announced there would be a special, very exciting announcement at this week's council meeting. It has something to do with gardening. And, this week kicks off NATIONAL COMMUNITY GARDENING WEEK as declared by the US Secretary of Agriculture. Portland loves to grow things. And, you cannot keep down our gardeners!
Miss Jolie Ann