Spokane Valley Partners community garden could open soon

Omar Akkari, shown Thursday, is trying to organize a community garden with Valley Partners at Mission Avenue and Pierce Road, near Valley Mission Park. (Jesse Tinsley)
Omar Akkari, shown Thursday, is trying to organize a community garden with Valley Partners at Mission Avenue and Pierce Road, near Valley Mission Park. (Jesse Tinsley)

At Spokane Valley Partners, plans are in the works to finally start its own community garden.

Modern Electric has donated the use of about 2.4 acres behind the south parking lot of Valley Mission Park, just off Mission Avenue and Pierce Road. If all goes well, gardeners could be able to plant as early as May 18.

Program director Connie Nelson has been planning this garden for a couple of years. As director of the food bank, she knows there is a need for nutritious foods and that fresh produce is a rare find for those who rely on the food bank.

In an interview last year, Nelson said tough economic times mean changing the way we live. During World War II, when resources were scarce, Americans planted victory gardens to supplement their groceries.

She also wants the garden to help her clients find a way out of poverty. She’s hoping to have a farmers market there in the future and to become an incubator for small businesses that may rise from the garden.

Omar Akkari is the community garden’s coordinator . He said in the last few weeks, a volunteer tilled a large patch of the land. Soil samples have been done, and while they found high levels of arsenic and lead, it’s something they can work around.

“It’s not dangerous,” he said. They are hoping to lay a filter fabric over the dirt and lay clean topsoil over that. In places where this isn’t possible, they may grow pumpkins for carving and let folks know they aren’t for eating.

The garden has five beds built. Akkari said the plan is to build 25 to 30 lined with filter fabric the roots can’t get through. Community members can rent beds for a small fee to grow their own produce, and if they have extra, they are encouraged to donate it to the food bank.

SVP has a five-year renewable agreement with Modern Electric to use the land. Because the land may someday be used as a well head, gardeners won’t be allowed to use chemicals or pesticides.

Students from Summit School in Central Valley School District are growing starter plants in the school greenhouse.

“We do have a ton of seeds,” Akkari said. Those same students are busy sorting seeds that will be distributed to clients of the food bank and to those wishing to plant them in the garden.

The garden doesn’t officially have a name yet – Common Grounds Community Garden and Fresh Start Community Garden have been suggested.

The nonprofit organization is relying heavily on donations and grants to get this project underway. Akkari said they will accept tools at SVP during regular donation hours.

“As much as we can, we want everything donated,” he said.

Nelson and Akkari hope that someday the garden will be a gathering place, with a play area for kids, a gazebo, and thriving farmers market.

“It’s more than a garden,” Akkari said. “It’s a park.”

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