Outgrowing expectations

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Salem Fresh Ideas Garden exceeds them all

 

At this point in the gardening season, potatoes and tomatoes are rampant.

Volunteers Jeff Howard (left) and Tom Bird dig up potatoes on Monday evening. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Volunteers Jeff Howard (left) and Tom Bird dig up potatoes on Monday evening. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.

However, volunteers for this year’s new community garden project, Salem Fresh Ideas Garden, planted a little bit of everything, and have been busy replanting vegetables, such as broccoli, and tending to baby green beans and cucumbers.

A handful of the volunteers dug up and plucked 86 pounds of fresh produce last Monday evening, and hope to keep it going through frost.

The garden, which was planted in April, is located on Clay Street, right next to Salem City Hall, on a plot of land donated by Salem Presbyterian Church. The garden is a joint project between the church and the City of Salem.

All produce is donated to the Salem Food Pantry located on Chapman Street, which Pat Cox, who volunteers at the garden and the pantry, says is a joy to those who utilize it.

“Every person that comes in, they just get a bag and start filling it up,” she said. “They love it.”

Volunteers meet twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays, to harvest, and spotters stop by nearly every day to water and weed the garden.

One of those volunteers is Amy Lawrence, who estimates the garden has provided a little over 1,000 pounds of produce to those in need. Official numbers are still to be tallied for the month of August, but June and July’s combined total equaled 816 pounds.

It’s tomato harvesting time at the Salem community garden. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
It’s tomato harvesting time at the Salem community garden. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.

That’s a lot of veggies, especially considering that many of the volunteers don’t consider themselves gardeners.

“That’s part of why I wanted to do it,” said Lawrence. “It’s a learning thing, besides the fact that it’s such a good thing for the community.”

However, there are some in the mix who admit to having a green thumb. Jeff Howard is one of those people, and he and Tom Bird were busy digging up potatoes on Monday.

“I’m the weeder/waterer,” Howard said.

City Councilwoman Lisa Garst is highly involved with the garden, and says the project completely exceeded all expectations.

“I didn’t know what to expect the first year,” Garst said. “Look at these guys, they know exactly what they’re doing.”

She says she doesn’t think much needs to change next season, but they may be more selective about the types of vegetables they plant.

“We’ll probably go with the things that did a high yield,” she said. “We also learned what the patrons of the food pantry like to have. They say no thanks to the beets, and aren’t crazy about the turnips.”

However, she says overall, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Volunteer Amy Lawrence picks tomatoes on Monday. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.
Volunteer Amy Lawrence picks tomatoes on Monday. Photo by Kelsey Bartlett.

“When you go in with the produce, their faces light up,” Garst said. “It’s just remarkable to see how excited people are to eat their veggies.”