The weather wasn’t the only tough thing this year. The economy is still sending a lot of people to the Second Harvest Inland Northwest’s food bank system. On top of that, donations are also down because folks who would otherwise give, can’t.
There was one bright spot in the donation realm this year, however. Even with the cranky weather, backyard gardeners and local farmers donated 153,219 pounds of garden fresh produce and fruit to the Plant a Row for the Hungry project. That’s 23,000 pounds more than last year. That means folks short on good food got 612,876 meals of the best produce and fruit available. Thank you to all of you who brought in even a pound of tomatoes. You brought a lot of smiles to folks as they picked up their food.
Plant a Row is only a part of the exciting emergence of a locally based food system that is growing quickly across the region. Farmers markets are sprouting everywhere. The Spokane and Perry Street farmers markets moved to great new locations and saw huge increases in patrons. Recently it was announced that the Spokane Public Market will open a year-round market in downtown Spokane. Visits to local farms and orchards are also on the rise as new farms begin to grow fruits and vegetables.
On the home front, backyard vegetable gardening is growing so fast that keeping gardeners supplied with all the plants, amendments and tools has retailers hustling. Vegetable gardening is now more popular than flower gardening.
Here in Spokane all those backyard gardeners have fueled the emergence of a thriving community garden system. What was only a handful of gardens five years ago has grown to more than 20 public and private community gardens, with more planned for next year.
Several were made possible by the cooperation of the Spokane City Water Department, which decided it would rather water food than lawn around its pumping and storage facilities. We have three gardens already, with another one in the works, thanks to its cooperation. Even with a tight budget, the city of Spokane has lent much-needed expertise and cooperation to the development of a citywide network of gardens.
Now it’s time to really bring the community gardening community together to build a stronger network and help build a better community in the process. To do that we need the help of the community to help organize the community, build gardens, raise funds, look for land and teach leadership and gardening skills. If you’d like to join us, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a starting point, we need a name for our garden network. A name that tells the world we know how to build community as much as we know how to grow vegetables. Something fun that would be memorable or have a catchy abbreviation. The only rule is it has to have “Spokane” in it. Let your imaginations loose folks.