Business is booming at the Veradale United Church of Christ garden.
Expanded space has produced hundreds more pounds of food for the Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank and harvesting should continue through early October.
This is the third year church members have planted and maintained a garden almost exclusively for the food bank. Last year’s effort netted 2,030 pounds of food and this year 2,393 pounds have been donated so far.
Part of that is due to the garden’s larger size at 611 N. Progress Road. It now fills a 320-foot-long strip of land between the church’s back parking lot and a fence, compared to 275 feet last year. The area is now fully planted in everything from zucchini to peas to parsley root. Volunteers have also been using compost, which helps keeps the weeds down and improves the soil. “The tomato plants are practically trees,” said church member Nancy Minard.
This year the big producers have been squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and onions, said volunteer Glen Scott. Vegetables and flowers are harvested every Tuesday and Thursday and delivered to the food bank. “Our largest haul was 603 pounds,” he said.
Saturday harvests bring in food for church members to bring home after services on Sunday. Scott estimates that almost 600 pounds of food has been distributed among the congregation. There’s also some loss because of the squirrels, birds and other animals that drop by the garden for a snack. But church members do nothing to discourage them. “We really do consider it God’s garden,” Scott said.
There are usually five or six volunteers for every harvesting day and a core group of eight volunteers spend the most time weeding and taking care of the garden. Others drop in occasionally to help out. Almost all of them are past retirement age, sometimes by decades. “It’s a great project for people who live places where they can’t have gardens,” Minard said.
Volunteers are hoping to top 3,000 pounds donated to the food bank by the end of the season.
As the weather cools the garden is winding down, though some squash won’t be harvested until after the first frost. When the snow starts to fall, volunteers will start planning next year’s garden. “At this point we’re pretty much at the end of our space,” Scott said, though he confessed he’s been eyeing parts of the church lawn as the perfect spot for expansion.
The garden has been such a success story that representatives from other churches have stopped by to see how it’s done. The Rev. Brian Prior of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection said his congregation is planning to put in a garden in the spring. The church has already laid some irrigation pipe to prepare. The goal is to provide food to church and community members as well as the food bank. “We want to pitch in,” Prior said.