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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Year of Plenty

The Community Garden Cultural Moment is Upon Us

We've got a big work day for the Pumpkin Patch Community Garden today and as we've made preparations it's become apparent that community gardens are very of the moment in American culture. I was startled into this recognition yesterday when we went to pick up our donated lumber for our raised beds only to find out someone had already picked it up. The shipping dock clerk explained that four women showed up from the community garden, took the wood and even gave a receipt for it. With the thought of 20 people showing up with nothing to do today I explained with desperation in my voice that that I didn't think they were from our group. My initial reaction was that someone got on our Facebook page and got the details on the donation and stole it, but that seemed a little far fetched. Little did I know that what actually happened is even more bazaar that that.

It turns out that the sawmill had also arranged a donation to a community garden in Sand Point Idaho and the folks from that garden took the wrong pallet of wood. When I called them they explained that they also have a big workday today. After some last minute preparations we're all set for wood for today but the unlikelihood of this incident has got me thinking that we're in a cultural moment where community garden are some kind of projection of our North American collective conscience. They are capturing our imagination and popping up everywhere. In fact, every business donor we talked to referenced the large number of requests they are getting from people organizing community gardens.

There was a woman who walked by yesterday while we were plotting out the site and she asked what we were up to. When we explained the garden she lit up and went off about how much she missed the pumpkin patch from when she was growing up and how excited she was and then, as if to sum up her enthusiasm, she said, "I just want to be a part of a community." Her comment has got me wondering if that's the sentiment driving interest in these gardens. In a culture that is more and more fragmented, and in communities where people are more and more isolated, maybe community gardens are a hopeful place of connection. In a time when people are shaped to pursue personal interest they are looking for a way to pursue a common good.

The rise in popularity of farmers' markets is undoubtedly related to this, as is the growing interest in buying local and eating local and getting to know farmers. I've got to go to get ready for our morning, but I wanted to throw this up there and hopefully get the conversation going. Do you have any thoughts on what's driving interest in these things? Is it sentimentality or romanticism about an era gone by or is it something more substantial? I'll follow up later with my read on what's going on.

Thanks to all the donors to the Pumpkin Patch which include Inland Empire Paper for letting us use the land, Wittkopf Landscape Supply for donating 35 yards of premium garden soil, Northwest Seed & Pet for donating seeds, Dew Drop Sprinkler for donating installation of irrigation, and especially Idaho Forest Group for supporting not only our garden but the one in Sandpoint as well. Thanks also to the SpoTweetup group for joining us today.

Year of Plenty

The Year of Plenty blog was created by Craig Goodwin in the winter of 2008 to chronicle the experiences of his family as they sought to consume everything local, used, homegrown or homemade. That journey was a wonderful introduction to people and movements in the Spokane area who are seeking the welfare of the community through local foods, farmers markets, community gardens, sustainable transportation, and more fulfilling and just patterns of consumption. In 2009 and beyond the blog will continue to report on these relationships and practices, all through the eyes of a family with young children. Craig manages the Millwood Farmers' Market, is a Master Food Preserver and Pastor at Millwood Presbyterian Church. Craig can be reached at