Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

I'm off to the frozen north once again tomorrow... and hopefully I can dodge a storm, the kind I like, that is supposed to rage for a few days starting tomorrow afternoon. My flight is in the morning, so hopefully, it'll be OK. Then I can be cozy inside my house, riding out the blizzard in front of the fireplace.
Gardening activities will resume in January... I'll be back in the office on Dec 30th, but the New Year's holiday will interrupt proceedings a little further. Think of it as a new year, a new start... we can all make resolutions in 2010 to plant a garden! At least, that's a resolution I plan to make. I requested a copy of the Seed Savers Exchange catalog and I plan to pick out a variety of heirloom seeds to try. I also have some prickly pear cactus seeds that my friend sent me from Arizona. It should be an interesting conglomeration!
Well, this is me signing out, wishing all of you the happiest of holidays!! However you celebrate them, I hope you are surrounded by those who you care about and who care about you, and that this much-needed break will prepare you for whatever 2010 has to offer.
Until next year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yet Another Reason to Garden...

I stumbled across this article today called Nature Makes Us More Caring. It was a scientific study conducted at Rochester University that compared people's reactions to synthetic versus natural environments. The results show that higher interaction with nature makes people feel better and it makes them act better! In this study, participants with more exposure to natural environments "value community and close relationships" and are "more generous with money".
So it looks like all we have to do to abolish greed and make people happier is plant some gardens, right?? Welllll.... maybe not quite... but this is further evidence that urban greenery has side effects OTHER than edible results.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Busy busy busy...

The meeting took place Wednesday night as planned! It was quite cold here in Boise, and that had a toll on the attendance... however, I am not disappointed with the results! One very dedicated volunteer wants to meet with me once a week and work on what needs to get done. I would rather have one very dedicated volunteer than 100 flaky ones. And anyway, you have to start somewhere! So I am, in reality, very pleased.
I also got a call from someone who couldn't attend the meeting, but wanted to be included on any mailing lists and in any events in the future. We ended up talking for a few minutes on the phone, and he had an idea that's really sticking with me: go to the mayor's office hours. If we can convince the mayor that community gardens are important, then, well, they are! So eventually I would like to assemble a small group of people and go to his office hours. Then, together we can present "The Case for Community Gardens".
Another volunteer and I (mostly the volunteer...) are in the process of finding lands suitable for community gardens. This could prove to be fairly difficult... city-owned land has, of course, many restrictions that apply. I'm not going to give up, but I'd like to see all of my options. I came across the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands website, and it got me thinking... what if we could somehow partner with them, and get people to donate land for the use of community gardens? Essentially a community garden land easement, if you will. There would even be something in it for the people who donated the land; they could get a break on their taxes. It's worth a thought anyway... I have absolutely no idea how the whole easement thing works, but their website has been helpful so far, and I'm going to start doing research. It can't hurt.
What is boils down to is this. I've done research on tons of community gardening programs throughout the country (and Canada), but none of them so far are able to offer people land. No matter how many dedicated volunteers you have, they're useless without some land to work on. If we could offer committed gardeners and interested neighborhoods land... and if we could connect donors to Sharing Backyards or some other mapping service... what would stop them from starting a new garden??
In other news, the website should be up and running by mid-January! Finally I won't have to try and remember everything that's happened... I can give a summary and direct people to the website. Eventually, this blog will become a part of that website as well, but that won't happen for a few months yet. No rush...
This is completely unrelated to gardening, but I think it's hilarious. The town where I spent my undergrad, Madison, WI, got pounded by the blizzard this week. They got 17 inches of snow, and when you combine that with a bunch of college kids who have a snow day, you get a huge snowball fight with over 3000 people.
Most of the time I'm very happy to be away from the homework and tests... but this made me miss college a little bit. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Due to the nature of my previous posts, I'm sure anyone has a good idea of what I'll post here today....
TODAY IS THE DAY!!!!
Tonight is the FIRST EVER Interested Citizens Meeting, here at the Idaho Foodbank (3562 S TK Ave), off of Federal Way. It starts at 7, and as I am generally not a fan of long, structured meetings, it will be a short, casual affair with some food to munch on.
If you can't make it but would still like to help out or just have some thoughts, call me or send me an e-mail! My number is 208-336-9643 x 246 and my e-mail is bparham@idahofoodbank.org. I promise, I am listening to EVERYTHING! I want to hear what you want to say and what you have to do!

On another note, there's a blizzard back home in Minnesota happening right now. They're supposed to get over 2 feet of snow in my hometown! So what are we waiting for??? There's only 2 inches of snow in Boise, and it's not nearly as cold. I'll see YOU tonight!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interested Citizens Meeting!

That's right, folks. The Interested Citizens Meeting is Wednesday night (Dec 9) at 7 PM, here at the Idaho Foodbank, 3562 S TK Ave. Come and share your thoughts!! And of course, come and eat some food. :)
I also wanted to rejoice about the snow! Even though I know lots of people are probably grumbling about it, you have to admit it's very pretty. It covers the ground and cleans off everything... to me it always feels like starting over again.
So think of it this way: The ground is being wiped clean and preparing for a new growing season. After a few months' rest, we'll start again, with new hopes and new aspirations. Like the newly fallen snow, we'll be fresh and full of possibilities.
Or, if you're like me, you can go for walks in it and hope for enough to ski on...:)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Woohoo!

I met yesterday with Lindsey Schramm from the Northend Organic Nursery (formerly Hillside Nursery). They held a pumpkin sale to benefit the Abundance Project (previously mentioned here), and they have a strong commitment to community and local assets. Newly opened for the holiday season, the store carries local plants, local dishware, local food, seeds from Earthly Delights Farm (also previously mentioned here) and all manner of other things local. Not to mention, of course, Christmas trees! They assured me that once spring came there would be more plants, but I was not disappointed.
The meeting with Lindsey, though short and to the point, proved to be very fruitful. She offered their establishment as a drop-off point for seed and tool donations. Any customers who donate will get a discount on their purpose. Furthermore, they'll offer free classes in the spring that are open to the public. She said if I knew of any volunteers who wanted to teach classes, she would offer the space.
Things are, literally, falling into place. This is the kind of break I was hoping for. I would love to accept seed and tool donations, but the Foodbank doesn't really have the capacity to hold a large amount of either of these things. Maybe with these donations we could have some sort of "Community Garden Starter Kit"?
And as for classes, it makes no sense to have classes here at the Foodbank. We don't have the staff to do it. I would much rather collaborate with classes that already exist, or in this case, space that already exists, and have links to community calendars from our website.
If you or someone you know would like to volunteer to teach a class, come to the Interested Citizens Meeting next Wednesday and let me know what you'd like to do!
I am very excited, because it appears that without much hassle, this program is going to work. What almost excites me more is that someone will take this up after I leave, and they'll expand upon the foundation that I've layed out!
I've said it so many times before, but I'll say it again until I'm blue in the face. The possibilities are endless! And the community response is astounding. Who knew there was so much interest in community gardening and so much desire to help?? I wonder how many other places are as community-oriented as Boise, Idaho??

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!
I spent a few days relaxing up in northern Minnesota. The lack of snow was distressing, but the warmer weather meant I could spend a lot of time by Lake Superior.
After a much-needed break, I feel ready to dive in to the tasks ahead! Christmas is less than a month away and I have many things I need to accomplish before then, especially since I will be spending more vacation time with family.
The volunteer meeting is right around the corner (December 9th at 7 PM! Here at the Foodbank, 3562 S TK Ave in Boise! Food provided! Should be pretty low-key) and I hope to hold the first meeting of the Garden Committee as well. I also need to start seriously planning for the Community Seed Swap, which is coming up in February (mark your calenders!! Exact date still to be determined, but I'll put it up here as soon as I meet with Edward's).
Tell your friends! Become a fan of my Facebook page and join my Facebook group (both called Idaho Foodbank Community Gardens)! Haha, how much more advertising can I do? :)
I'm going to put up an ad on Craigslist as well and submit something to the Boise Weekly. I'm really excited to meet other people interested in gardening, and to hear other people's input! I'm tired of only hearing my own ideas all the time. This is meant to be a project for the community, and will not be the efforts of just one person.

On a side note, I can't believe it'll be December tomorrow... as I mentioned before, there's still part of me that's stuck on a student's schedule. And since I haven't started school yet, there's some area of my brain that still thinks it's early September... not quite!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hey folks, it's the holiday season!

It's now late November, which means... we are in the holiday season! Which means... Thanksgiving is this week!
Tomorrow I will hop on a plane and head up north to Minnesota for a few days. As much as I love Boise and as much as I love my job, I'm looking forward to a few days of relaxing, (hopefully) playing in the snow, playing with dogs, and eating. Ohhhhh the eating. Turkey doesn't really mesh with my mostly-vegetarian lifestyle (and I've never really liked the way it tastes, anyway), so as an alternative to turkey I'm going to make some vegetarian tacos.
That just goes to show there are lots of ways to celebrate the holiday. So no matter what you're doing for Thanksgiving (if anything!), the important thing is to enjoy yourself, and whether you spend it with family or friends, remember that home can be anywhere you make it.
And now, I'm signing off, and I'll be back again on Monday morning. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Calling All Interested Citizens!

What: First Ever Idaho Foodbank Community Gardens Interested Citizens Meeting
When: Dec 9th, 7:30 PM
Where: Idaho Foodbank, 3562 S TK Ave Boise, ID

I know, it's a mouthful. That's right, I've set a date. And seeing as I'll be gone for a few days due to Thanksgiving, I better get the word out now...!
I hope, with this meeting, to start making the public aware that this program exists and to start recruiting volunteers. Even if you have little to no experience in gardening, or even if you don't want to get your hands dirty but would still like to help out somehow, there's something for you to do.
I would also like to open up a part of this meeting to hear people's ideas! This program is brand new, and while I have some set paths I would like to take it's very open to interpretation and new ideas. Let me know where you'd like to see it go! I'm listening with open ears! This program is based and founded on the idea of community, and therefore would be useless without the community's input.
Oh yes, and there will be food. I still have the college mentality: People will only come if there's free food. Maybe that's not a reflection of the real world, but it can't hurt, right? :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Great, Wide Beyond

The other night, a friend and I climbed to the top of a foothill near my house. Though I went for drives all over the mountains when I first came to Boise, I had not yet been to the foothills that were only 5 blocks from my house... for the same reason I went to college in Wisconsin, 2 hours from Chicago, but never actually visited the city itself. Now that I know what there is to explore in that foothill I will be there often...

The point of this trip was to sit on the top of the hill and watch the meteor shower. We did this for a little while, but I was obligated to go to sleep before its peak at 2 AM in order to be awake for work. However, I was not disappointed. The first meteor we saw, which streaked across the sky like a flare, was the largest meteor I have ever seen.

As a physical geographer (I majored in enviornmental/physical geography in college) and a gardening enthusiast, I am constantly in awe of nature. It never disappoints me. Whether something as grand as a meteor or as small and intricate as a seed, I find all of it amazing and fascinating. After studying the smallest shred of botany in college and taking my physical geography classes, I find that looking at things scientifically and having an idea of how they work makes them more interesting.

But you don't have to be a "scientist" to enjoy nature. I was enjoying it long before I knew how anything worked. Gardening, especially, is whatever you want it to be. Enjoying it because you can feed yourself or enjoying it because you like to watch flowers grow are both legitimate reasons.

The reasons for gardening are as varied and complicated as people themselves. You may ask, what does a meteor have to do with gardening? The answer is, everything is connected. By starting a garden, you are plugging yourself into the natural world and connecting yourself on some level with the great, wide beyond.
And I think, personally, that that's absolutely amazing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This morning I met with Kim Metez. She runs the one-woman operation known as the Abundance Project, which started this past summer. The program is essentially very simple: she decided that she wanted to get extra garden produce to refugees in Boise. Through her efforts and her efforts alone, she talked to local gardeners and farmers. She picked up and delivered the donated produce by herself, on her own time. This was based on a first-come/first serve system. She hopes that as the program becomes more established, more people will know about it, and she can set up a system for people who would like to volunteer. This is yet another sign that if you want to do something, you just have to do it. It will be hard and frustrating, but it's not out of your reach.

She also offered to help me host an upcoming Garden Committee meeting. The date is yet to be determined, but the idea is that growers in and around Boise can get together, meet each other, and we can brainstorm. Because who would know better where this program should go than the growers themselves? I don't claim to be an expert. I want to do what I can for them, and I need their input.

I look forward to working with the Abundance Project, because Kim clearly has what it takes to get things done. We're currently mailing people all over Boise to update the Master Contact list. I've written up an agenda for the meeting and I finally have a clear idea of what I would like to accomplish, and I think I know how to run it so it isn't tedious (I hate tedious meetings... why would I want to put someone through that?). I have never really run a meeting in my life, and I suspect that a meeting of volunteers versus a meeting of the Garden Committee may be different... different set of folks with a different set of knowledge. Though really, we're all people, aren't we? So they may not be very different after all :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good News!!

This past Tuesday, I drove out to Edward's Greenhouse to have a meeting there. Now I may have mentioned this before, but just in case, I'll say it again. I am from Minnesota, in other words, land of the Midwest where you don't ask for things. Therefore I have never asked for a donation in my life, and I wasn't entirely sure where this meeting would go.
Almost as soon as I sat down with Anju Lucas, one of the managers, she asked me straight out "What do you want from us?" I stuttered and mumbled something about the Community Seed Swap in February. She immediately asked me if I needed a place to hold it, and if I would need anything donated. I was, frankly, fairly flabbergasted. I feel like I've been spoiled for all my future non-profit dealings... I didn't even have to ask for anything! Who knew it was this easy to get donations?!
Moral of the story, the Community Seed Swap now has a venue and a sponsor. They told me they're on board for whatever I want to do, and I just need to call them as the event gets closer. This is such great news... I had never been to Edward's before, and as anyone who has been there knows, the facilities are incredible. What a place to start off the growing season!!
Things are also progressing in other ways. I spent most of yesterday before lunch walking around downtown and Hyde Park putting up flyers (with the gracious help of one of my friends). I also sent an e-mail to the Boise Weekly, and I hope to have something in the Idaho Statesman. Edward's have also said they will help with advertising, and when I met with Anju she gave me a number of leads.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Changing your diet is a very intimidating and complicated prospect all on its own. If you throw a garden into the mix, things get even more confusing. It's a lot of work just to plant a garden, maintain it, and harvest everything. Then once you harvest it, there are a number of things you can do with it: sell it, save it, cook it, eat it,...
So say you decide you want to eat it. What if you've very recently left the microwaveable world that so many of us know? What if you have no idea how to cook squash or zucchini or eggplant?
Part of eating healthy produce from a garden is learning what to do with it once it's in your kitchen. Understandably, this can be very, very intimidating for some people. It was for me, and it still can be at times! Sometimes when you read something in a cookbook it can sound impossible or even scary. In my case, for instance, I had a pumpkin and I wanted to make pumpkin muffins from scratch. I had no idea how to prepare a pumpkin from scratch, so I consulted The Joy of Cooking (that has information on any food ever). Their description sounded not only complicated, but scary. I ended up consulting my roommate instead and once I did it, it was not very hard.
So where am I going with this, you ask. I have begun a new portion of this project which, as a food enthusiast and lover of cooking, I am extremely excited about. I'm attempting to make some pamphlets for gardeners of certain vegetables that briefly explain optimum planting conditions (As a source I'm using "The Organic Gardener's Complete Guide to Vegetables and Fruits"), common ways that people eat whatever vegetable it is (fried, sauteed, etc.), and then including a recipe. I am purposely trying to pick recipes that are interesting and not so hard they would make Julia Child cringe. I hope, these pamphlets will be brief enough to be accessible and informational enough to be useful. In order for good food to be available, people need to know what to do with it. Eventually I would like to translate the pamphlets so that the refugee population can access them as well. In their case, they may never have seen our vegetables before.
Just for the record, I can't take credit for this idea! Mark Drew from the King of Glory Lutheran Church garden suggested it during our meeting. I thought it was a fantastic idea, so now I am attempting to do it justice! I'd like to have some paper copies available and post them on the website (which is taking shape, coincidentally!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Go-time!

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things...
Seriously though, folks, the time has come to start publicizing this thing. What good is a community garden program if nobody knows about it??
So here's the plan of action. I am going to attempt to organize two meetings. One will be the first meeting of the Garden Committee, which will help advise me as to where this program should go. Who would know better than the gardeners themselves what they need most? The members of this meeting will be invited personally by me.
The other meeting will, I hope, help to recruit a number of volunteers. I've been calling it the Interested Citizens meeting. Essentially, I want to gather a lot of people together, feed them a bit of food, and tell them about what I'm doing. And hopefully, they'll want to help!
But the first step is advertising. I'm in the process of making a flier, which is about finished. This Saturday I'm going to organize some volunteers to help me hang fliers up all over Boise, and hopefully I can hear from some people who are elsewhere in the Treasure Valley. The plan is to make a list of places to hang fliers, assign people certain parts of the city, tell them some about the program, and set them loose. Once again, I will have food for anyone who is willing to help me out. I also plan to put an ad in the Boise Weekly and the Idaho Statesman and whatever else I can think of...
One small glitch, besides me being only one person, is that I don't know the city of Boise very well! November marks the 4th month I have lived in this beautiful place, and I hope people who know the area better than I can help me.
If anyone in Boise or the Treasure Valley reading this would like to help hang fliers on Saturday or would like to know more about the interested citizens meeting, send me an e-mail at bparham@idahofoodbank.org and I can give you the details. I could also use hints about where to put things up and where to advertise!!
Help out your fellow Boisean and your local community gardeners (and the integrity of a local food system to help feed the hungry)!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One Acre Fund, worth a look!

I wanted to spread the word about the organization One Acre Fund, because I think it is absolutely amazing.
This organization focuses their efforts in Kenya and Rwanda, some of the poorest countries on the planet. They empower farmers by giving them the resources to start farming businesses and the ability to invest for the future. This is the ultimate in food security. As the old proverb approximately goes, "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."
With any luck, this community gardening approach to poverty and hunger will have a similar affect. What better way to empower people and feed them then to ensure that they get food season after season?
Inspiration for the day!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I was feeling slightly overwhelmed yesterday by all the tasks at hand... so, like most people who want to organize their thoughts, I made a list! To further organize my thoughts (and hopefully help with my sanity...) I will put that list up here. Feedback is always welcome, because as I am discovering more and more, I can't do this alone! It's amazing what two people (and of course, more!) can come up with versus one person. There are some people I need to meet with, but in the mean time, my blog will have to listen...
First of all, I am trying to decide how much money in donations I should attempt to get, and what I would realistically need the money for. I have some seeds that were already donated, which is great, but due to the nature of this program I really don't need tons and tons of... stuff. In a perfect world I would get the right amount of stuff and be able to distribute it efficiently and evenly to every garden that needed it, as well as to aspiring gardeners who would need it for their first season. However I am fairly certain that it would not be that simple... there's no way I could ever get enough "stuff" so that everyone could get what they needed. And then what would I do? Pick favorites? I could potentially pick gardens at random to receive "stuff" from us, but I don't really like that idea. I'm still working this out. As for the seeds that I already have, I think I will have them available at the seed swap. For that purpose I think it would be beneficial to get more, because besides seed-swapping I would like gardeners to leave having more than they came with. But again, this could create some problems.
One thing that having "stuff" would be good for is for a prize of some sort. Maybe as an incentive for the seed swap, community garden participants would put tickets in a raffle or something and win a set of tools... though this might be better for a fundraiser, not for the seed swap.
I'm just hashing out ideas at this point. I think it would be good (for publicity and for us!) to have some sort of fundraiser before the season starts, probably in the next few months, sort of like the pumpkin sale for the Abundance Project (an organization that donates extra produce to incoming refugees! a great project. they have a group on facebook or you can read about them here). Unfortunately my plug for that is a little late, as it was a few weeks ago already... but essentially the North End Organic Nursery hosted a pumpkin sale, and either all or most of the proceeds went to the Abundance Project. It would be fun and (hopefully) profitable to do something like that.
Another item on my plate is the formation of a Garden Committee. As I've been saying over and over, these gardens are not FOODBANK gardens, and we can't do this alone. Very soon I need to assemble a group of gardeners and community members who can help us steer this in the right direction. They know, better than anyone else, what their needs are, and it's always better to hear other people's perspectives.
Another item I have decided to agressively pursue, even if it doesn't come to fruition during my term here, are gardening classes that are either discounted or free. This is something I can discuss in more detail with the Garden Committee, I hope, and it's the kind of service the Foodbank can really try and offer. We don't have the capacity to set up gardens or oversee them, but we could do something like offer classes. That would be a real incentive for people to come to us.
In other news, I met with a volunteer yesterday who's willing to improve upon the maps I've started! His cartography experience far outweighs mine (he does it for a job) and as a past geography major, I am particularly excited about this project. It would be a fantastic resource to point volunteers in the right direction without much staff time.
My head is swimming with ideas, and I'm trying to figure out what can feasibly be done in the time I have. It would be very easy to come up with too many ideas and not accomplish anything, and that's something I want to avoid at all costs... which is why I'm trying to focus on the above (which still might be too much).

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Seed Planted, A Community Fed

This morning I met with Brandon Stankewsky, who, with the help of his wife Kathrine, established a company called A Seed Planted (you can find them on Facebook! Become their Facebook friend! www.facebook.com/aseedplanted). We met at the Flying M Coffeehouse yesterday morning and discussed garden aspirations over our respective beverages.

The main idea behind A Seed Planted is to get fresh food to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford it. As most people reading this blog probably already know, organic and fresh food (the good stuff!) is more expensive than pre-packaged, corn-syrupy, microwaveable imitations (the bad stuff!). Which means that the idea of "organic", because of this system, ends up being fairly elitist. I love going to the Co-op, but I use my food stamps. If I didn't have them, I wouldn't shop there, because I couldn't afford it. Even somewhere like WinCo, where the prices are generally lower than the Co-op, the organic options are still more expensive. So what do you do if you're short on cash? Most people go for the "bad stuff" (myself included).

If there were more organizations with aims like A Seed Planted, fewer people would have to opt for the bad stuff. Brandon made it clear to me, over and over again, that he has no intention of ever selling any of the food he grows or looking for money from this venture.

As far as I'm concerned, this is what it's all about. People being able to eat. From the Foodbank side of things, as I have said many times, I don't want to dominate community gardens. The point is that people can eat more fresh food. That's it. It's really very, very simple, and with that goal in mind we will help them to get there in as many ways as we possibly can.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

After being both sick and on vacation (I went to San Francisco! Even VISTAs can sometimes afford a vacation...), I feel as though I have been MIA for quite a while now and lax in my duties... I am also still fighting my cold. There's never a good time to get sick, but it was especially unfortunate for me this time because I got sick right before my trip... and I wasn't about to stay home.

ANYWAY I'm back now! And I need to report about my visit with Casey O'Leary who runs Earthly Delights Farm.

Unlike many places I've visited, Earthly Delights Farm isn't a community garden but an urban farm. After a delicious cup of rainbow flower tea, Casey, her dog Norm, and I went on a tour of Earthly Delight's Gardens. These gardens are all located in the Sunset Collister neighborhood, and are located in people's yards. But there was one thing I noticed right away: these yards were much larger than most yards normally found in the city. There were so many gardens tucked back where you didn't expect them. At one point, as we were walking through, there were left over concord grapes hanging on the vines. Casey and I performed gleaning on a small scale and chowed down on these delicious wonders.

Earthly Delights has been around for 5 years, Casey told me, and it started simply with the desire to grow food in an urban setting. Through contact and agreements with land owners, the plots were established and eventually, a CSA began. This project is very inspiring, because it shows that if you want to do something, and you have enough will power, you really can do it. Because of Casey O'Leary's work, more people have access to fresh produce in the city of Boise. Not only that, but the farm is environmentally concious as well; the work is entirely human-powered. Rather than using gas-guzzling machinery or cars to transport food, people do the work and bicycles transport from site to site. And as I mentioned, the gardens are all close enough together that they are easily reached on foot.

This farm has gardens after my own heart (and after the Foodbank's heart!). They prove that gardens can grow anywhere people want them to. All we need is the will to plant something, and thanks to people like Casey O'Leary and farms like Earthly Delights Farm the will is ever-present and growing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

WOW

Christy Harp from Jackson Township, Ohio grew a pumpkin. Not just any pumpkin... it weighs 1,725 pounds. I'm almost more impressed by the 7-pound tomato her husband grew!
And now it's time for an obscure reference... for anyone who has seen Sleeper, a Woody Allen movie before my time (but part of my childhood, courtesy of my parents), there's a part where he's running through a field of giant fruits and vegetables. Here's the clip for your viewing (and laughing) pleasure. Maybe giant produce isn't so unbelievable after all?!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, after an extended game of phone tag that lasted a few weeks, I finally visited the King of Glory Community Garden and met with Mark Drew. Located on land donated by the King of Glory Lutheran Church, this garden is mainly tailored to refugees but it also serves a few local Boise families. There are 12 family plots total, and there are hopes to expand in the next growing season. When plans for a community garden were announced, 30 families expressed interest. The land is available, but, as Mark explained to me, the water constraints limit the growing area considerably. He told me about water laws in Idaho, which I knew very little about before.
For those of you who know all of this already, bear with me... I'm learning something new every day! Essentially the area that was settled first has first rights to the water... no sharing, no compromising. The system is archaic but it still remains. This means, as Mark told me, they pay a certain amount of money each month for water they can't use. So the prospects of expanding are limited; because of their water set-up they would have to install some sort of spigot or something to allow the water to reach far enough. As you can imagine, this is a very expensive proposition.
He gave me a number of wonderful ideas. For instance, I brought up the possibility of funneling volunteers from the Foodbank to help in community gardens. He took this idea further; volunteers would be more efficient if they were more organized, maybe in core groups around the Treasure Valley. If we could somehow have a reliable group of volunteers that community gardeners could use, or some system of that nature, it would be a very efficient use of volunteer time.
He also suggested having some sort of greenhouse space for community gardeners to grow seeds and veggie starts. That's something I never even thought of. If people don't have the land to grow a garden themselves, they probably don't have the space to start seeds on a large scale, either. This could be trickier to accomplish... but I really like the idea and I'm going to see what I can do with it. Maybe we won't have a greenhouse exactly, but perhaps I could coordinate with local businesses and nurseries and somehow get space...
Another idea he had pertains especially to refugees, but also to anyone else unfamiliar with cooking and gardening. Some information, translated into several languages, on what grows in Idaho and how to use it once you pick it would be very, very beneficial. If people are coming from other places, how are they going to know what kind of food grows here? And how are they going to know how to prepare it? Because really, what gardening comes down to is eating. If you can't eat what you grow, the point of having a garden is nearly moot. This is where translation comes in. Maybe we could somehow develop pamphlets in Russian, Swahili, Spanish, and of course English. I cook often, but even I don't know how to prepare some of those vegetables!
My head is spinning with all these ideas, and the time has come to start acting on them. Another step in this process is the start of applying for Service Learning. It could be highly beneficial to me to partner with a Service Learning class and get some publicity!
There are so many possibilities that I need to be careful not to get caught up in the details. I only have a year or so to do this, and whoever follows me can continue where I left off and take it in a different direction. One step at a time...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Proclamation!

This morning, several Foodbank employees and I, some of us sporting our stylish Foodbank t-shirts, went to the Borah Courtroom in downtown Boise. In a short ceremony, the lieutenant governor declared October Hunger Awareness Month. The Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force lead the ceremonies, and youth from Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS) presented a basket full of local produce. This was a symbolic act highlighting the importance of a local food system. The basket contained produce from the BUGS garden, Lewiston, the Idaho Office for Refugees' Global Gardens, A Seed Planted Community Charity Garden, and Peaceful Belly Farm. And, as a last-minute addendum, there was produce from the Trinity Baptist Church community garden. As a request from Kathy Gardner, I sent out an e-mail to a few community gardens in the area, and Krista Willmorth graciously offered some of her produce for the basket. It was pretty exciting for me to hear their garden announced in this official place, and to hear the words "partnered with the Idaho Foodbank".
I'm sure there will be a better description of this event in a newspaper somewhere... I'll keep my eyes open and post it if anything comes up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In the cool of the fall morning, I made my way out to the Hidden Springs Community Farm, winding through Boise and then out into the barren hills. It made me remember how much I like being out of the city... sometimes I forget how amazing the countryside is around here. Not to mention snow in the foothills!
But I digress. The Hidden Springs Community Farm is located near the community of Hidden Springs and is spread out on various fields. The setting is beautiful, with the foothills waiting in the background. The site itself is also something special; it used to be a farmstead (and still kind of is!), and has the oldest standing house in Ada county. The farmland has been preserved through the work of Doreen and Jenn, also known as Sisters of the Soil (not actually sisters... I made that mistake over the phone). They operate this community farm with the help of volunteers to run a CSA (about 100 shares in the past season), all under organic certification and with big plans for the future. Doreen mentioned an idea to me that I think would be great to keep in mind and hopefully, to enact! She would like to coordinate with local organizations (her example was the Women's Shelter) and have volunteers from these areas work in exchange for produce. In this scenario, everyone wins! It would be great to try and help gardens do that sort of thing starting next season if they would like. It could add a whole new dimension to the program! In these infant stages, the possibilities are almost endless.
It was refreshing to be out on a farm again... doing that always reminds me of happy times back home and on the farm in Maine :) And it was inspiring to see this work on such a large scale. I know firsthand how much work it is to do that...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wait... it's October?!

How did this happen, anyway? October already?? Now that I'm not in school anymore, I am somehow stuck in an eternal summer... even though the weather is changing outside, my brain tells me it's still late August.
But as it turns out, I've been in Boise for three months already, and it's not August but October! The first frost has already hit us. In gardens everywhere leaves hang despondently in the chilly autumn air, spent after a (hopefully) fruitful season. I even heard tell of a possible snowfall in the near future. My Minnesota heart sings at the possibility of snow, and I am frankly quite pleased that the heat has been replaced with tolerable temperatures... no more sweating in my bed at night! It's even been raining the past few days!
But just because the gardening season is over does not mean my work is over. By no means! It only means I am moving on to greater things... Before too long, I need to begin finding funding, free supplies, and whatever else I can acquire, amidst meeting with gardeners. Even though I'm not in school anymore, this fall still marks a turning point in the year for me; we have the 2009 growing season now completely behind us. Somehow I can focus more easily on the task at hand. Though it's still far away, the growing season of 2010 is suddenly palpable.
I have a lot of work ahead of me, and it's beginning to take a shape that I can grasp. Though the growing season for community gardeners is at an end, the growing season for this community garden coordinator is just beginning. 2010 will be a great year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Day in the Field (with Kids)

Now I feel like I have enough energy to post about yesterday, and can do it justice!

First off, it was wonderful. I don't have much experience with kids, and due to the nature of my work and my life in general I'm not around them very much. So I will admit, I was a little nervous about yesterday. I didn't want to bore them to death! But as it turned out, it was a very casual affair.

10 kids from Anser Charter School in Garden City, accompanied by two helpful mothers, headed over to Boise's Downtown Community Garden yesterday, where Allison Demarest, Rev. Lucas Grubbs from St Michaels Cathedral, and I helped to teach them about hunger and gardening. Their school has a program that breaks the student body (comprised of elementary-aged students) up into different Community Service Modules all over the city. For example, I know one module is at the Humane Society, one at the Senior Center, etc. The point of these projects (as far as I understand it) is to send kids out into the community and have them reflect on their experience. It gives them a chance to get outside of the classroom and have some hands-on learning. I personally think it's great, and wish that I could have had something like it when I was in elementary school!

Allison has these kids for a few weeks (I think seven... but I'm not sure) and each week, as part of the Community Supported Agriculture service module, they learn something related to gardening and sustainable agriculture. Next week, they're going to Peaceful Belly Farm (an urban farm in Boise I have yet to visit!) to learn how to make cider. I am incredibly jealous...

We started the day out with an introduction (This is Beki! Here is the garden!) and a brief discussion about hunger. Allison's first question was along the lines of, What do you know about hunger? Immediately a few kids raised their hands, and the first answer was: Your stomach hurts. At another point in the conversation, Allison asked something akin to Do you think it's possible to end hunger in the world? And the response from one of the kids was, What do you mean by hunger? I feel like people often don't give kids enough credit. They really DO think about things, and they know what's going on. Never assume that children "don't understand".

The next activity was harvesting for St. Michael's Cathedral (more on that in a bit). We harvested tomatoes, cherry and regular, as well as eggplant. I loved watching the kids get so excited about the eggplant... and some of them loudly declared their love for chocolate cherry tomatoes (which if you've never had them, you should! they're delicious).

After about 20 minutes of the harvesting frenzy, during which each kid harvested a ton of produce, the Reverend Lucas Grubbs from St Michael's Cathedral came and spoke briefly. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of him, so you'll just have to imagine... He talked about the Banquet program at St Michael's. I had never heard of it before, but essentially, once a month the church cooks amazing food for homeless and low-income people in the Boise area. They even serve it banquet style, with fancy tablecloths and nice dishes. Because everyone deserves a nice meal. The produce those kids harvested was going to straight to their kitchen.

After this I talked very, very briefly about the Backpack Program (For those who don't know, this program sends a backpack full of food home with kids over the weekend who really need it! They can prepare it themselves) and mobile pantries (The Foodbank packs food into refrigerated trucks and gets it out to people who need it). I tried to make it interesting, and I think I did OK. I figured that something like the Backpack Program, which has to do with kids directly, would maybe interest them a little more.


The next activity (which I came up with, actually!) involved decorating lunch bags. We gave the kids markers, colored pencils, and three empty lunch bags to decorate. As you can imagine, there were many different designs that emerged, from bags that said "Happy Lunch" with flowers on them to drawings of people with two heads and four noses. I love little kid art...
During creative time Allison also showed them pictures from What the World Eats by Faith D'Aluisio. This is an absolutely fascinating book, and it has pictures of what families around the world eat in one week. As you can imagine, the average American family diet differs greatly from the average Sudanese family diet... In the picture to the left, the kids are coloring their lunch bags and Allison is showing them a picture from the book.

After everyone had decorated three lunch bags each (some very inspired kids decorated more. this was certainly allowed), a sort of assembly line was set up around a table. Then they put together sack lunches. It was quite the flurry of activity around the table. They worked so hard, and before long there was a tote full of sack lunches complete with beautiful artwork. This picture to the left shows some determined kids filling their lunch bags.
The food for the sack lunches was supplied by St Michael's Cathedral (the same group that does the Banquet), and they also received them.
All in all, it was a very worthwhile way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. The weather was beautiful (though a little hot) and it was nice to get away from my computer for a little while. I really enjoyed watching these kids interact with one another, and I LOVED when they got so excited about eggplant. I wish more people would get excited about eggplant! And of course, the community service aspect was fantastic. I can only imagine how excited people will be to get a decorated lunch bag :)
That's all for today! I hope to be able to report on more exciting gardening adventures like this one, because that's really what this work is all about. People!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Deadheads vs. Deadheaders

I went and hung out with Allison Demarest and the kids today. It was lovely, and I will post about it tomorrow when I am less exhausted...
However I did find this gem of an article. In Oakland a garden ad called for "deadheaders", which refers to people needed to lop off wilted roses. BUT guess who responded? Deadheads! In all of their tye-dyed glory. It worked out, apparently, because if anyone would like to garden it seems like hippies would. At least, these hippies do.
Another instance of something not turning out the way people expect, but working nonetheless... whether in life or gardening, it is important (and necessary!) to be flexible.

Coming tomorrow: my foray at Boise's Downtown Community Garden with children! Pictures, too! Hooray!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Growing Youth

I am so excited for tomorrow!! I was contacted by Allison Demarest from Boise's Downtown Community Garden. She's teaching a series of garden-based classes for a group of 9-year-olds, and as part of her curriculum wants to do a day on hunger and gardening. And she asked me to come and help her with it!
Now, I am the first to admit... my experience with kids is limited at best. And I am no teacher. But I think this will be a pretty relaxed affair, and I think the age group is pretty good. We have some pretty exciting activities lined up for the afternoon. We're going to talk about some general hunger statistics that I supplied from the Food Bank and then broaden the topic to world hunger. Then we're going to bring the ideas back home again and talk about refugees in Boise. I suggested talking about mobile pantries, the Backpack Program, and refugee gardens throughout the city. We haven't finalized a lesson plan yet, and she's the boss. I'm just happy to be along for the ride, and happy that I can help! I love last-minute, spontaneous plans. It's like somehow... I don't have time to think about it, agonize over it, and fret over it (because I am a worrier), which then lets me relax and go with the flow. Hopefully that's the case for tomorrow afternoon! I think it should be fun, anyway. She told me the kids are really excited about all of this, and that makes all the difference. I think the garden setting will help, too. If I were a kid, I would want to learn outside!

Monday, September 21, 2009

So much to report!!
This past Saturday morning I visited the Sunset Garden. The morning was absolutely beautiful, as many Idaho mornings seem to be, before the afternoon sun commenced burning my freckled skin. After turning down a discrete dirt road off of Taft Street in downtown Boise and cruising through some puddles, the garden was suddenly open before me. And I must say, it was absolutely beautiful. It isn't visible from the road, and I felt like I had stumbled onto a lost world. Not only was it hidden, it was huge!
After talking to Sherilyn Orr, the garden manager, I learned that this area had two different gardens. The smallest is the actual community garden, and is run in typical community garden style. Plots are given away to individual families, people, etc. and they tend them as needed. There are two work days per week, one on Tuesday (I think) and one on Saturday.
The other, larger garden is dedicated almost entirely to the senior center on the property. It is maintained almost entirely by Bernie, an 80-year-old resident of the senior center. Bernie was amazing... Sherilyn told me he is out in the garden every day, and he harvests vegetables for the cooks in the senior center to prepare. My understanding was that this garden provides almost, if not all, of the vegetables the senior center needs during the growing season! And considering there are 50 residents there, this is no small task. It was wonderful to see both Bernie and Sherilyn out in the morning air, ferociously gardening, and seeing what kind of a paradise they had created. They sent me home with some cucumbers and a pumpkin. If I'm feeling ambitious enough, hopefully I can turn that pumpkin into a pie or some scones!
This morning I visited another garden, though this one is techinically a farm. It serves African refugees in the community and is partnered with African Community Development (more about that later). Although I found out about this garden from the Idaho Horticulture Society gardening competition, this parcel of land doesn't function like a typical community garden. The Idaho Office for Refugees has organized the coordination of this farm with restauraunts and retail in Boise so they have an outlet for fresh produce sales as well as some generation of income. Buta Muzuri, who gave me the official tour, told me the garden is selling to Edward's Greenhouse, the Co-op, and a few local restaurants. On top of that they also have a farm stand at the Saturday morning market in Boise.
Now I want to talk a little bit about the other side of this project, the side that is incredibly inspirational to me: African Community Development. As Buta explained to me, the Resettlement Agency, which helps newly-arrived refugees in this country, only extends their help to 8 months after the refugees' arrival. This is an important and necessary first step, but it's simply not enough; as a studier of foreign languages, I can promise that 8 months is not enough time to have enough command of English to function in an American society. So the purpose of African Community Development is to pick up where the Resettlement Agency leaves off. This is where the farm comes in. Through stimulus money the farm was able to offer a few paid positions this year, and the income from produce sales is set aside for African Community Development. This money helps out members if they need it, and is generally there for support. Buta told me there are 40 families who are members, and to add to the sense of community there is no membership fee of any kind.
On top of all of this, there are refugees from all over Africa. Refugees from countries who were bitter enemies back in their home countries garden in the same space, including warring sides from the Rwandan genocide. Buta told me that there are some "pockets of resistance" to this idea of living together in peace, but that generally, this idea was very well received. On the farm, for instance, there are members of warring tribes working side by side.
Just another example of how gardening doesn't have to be just "gardening"; it brings people together, whether it's because of a shared common space or a common desire to eradicate goat heads from the planet. Or a combination of the two!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Growing Victory

I found this video about the White House garden! It's pretty cool, take a look! Their garden is the first by the White House since World War II. Back then there was a huge promotion of gardens called Victory Gardens, which emphasized domestic production of food.
Pretty great stuff :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Last week was crazy-busy! On Wednesday morning I went to a volunteer fair at Boise State, on Thursday the Foodbank had its annual A Chef's Affaire, and on Friday I went to Ontario, Oregon for a Community Food Forum. Funny, isn't it, how my busiest week has also been my shortest? This week should be a nice break, I hope, after all that chaos. I'm going to hopefully be meeting with a lot of gardeners in the coming weeks, however... pretty soon the growing season will be past!

The Community Food Forum itself was pretty good. A VISTA like me organized it, which is pretty impressive. There were about 60 people from the area, most from different organizations related to community food systems in some way. There were some people from the local Holiday Inn who wanted to start a farmer's market in their parking lot. A few people, however, were there just because they wanted to learn more. One woman I met is looking to start a farm, and she just wanted to talk to people. Although it isn't completely related to community gardens, I gave her my contact information. I'd like to help if I can!

I did get some information about valuable resources, especially the Food for Oregon website. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet but it seems like a huge collection of local Oregon resources. I think a similar website for Idaho is Idaho Preferred. Again, I haven't looked through this yet, but I heard a few people mention it. They also fed us while we were there, and all the food was local and fresh. I even succumbed to a grass-fed, organic beef hamburger (normally I am a vegetarian... but how could I resist this??).

While at the Community Food Forum, I heard about something that intrigued me greatly. In a creative attempt to connect growers with chefs/restaurants/etc., some organizations have applied the philosophy of speed-dating. I found this article on the Ecotrust website about it. Essentially, the chefs or the growers sit behind tables, and the other group of people rotate from table to table. They have a few minutes to explain what they have and what they want. This is not an attempt for people to make a financial transaction but merely to see what's out there.

I like this idea a lot. The concept of "speed-dating" can be adapted to so many different things! I think it would also be a lot of fun, and a great way to meet lots of people in a short time. This could probably be applied to community gardening somehow... maybe we could have some sort of speed-dating thing at the Community Seed Swap later on?? The possibilities are endless...

Also on the topic of events, I hatched another idea for an event over the weekend. I am a bit of a musician, and something that goes with music is the desire to share it with other people. So I started thinking... an open mic night would be fun. Then I thought further: what about an open mic night that served as some sort of fundraiser for the Foodbank? And maybe not just food/money donations but seed and tool donations, too? This idea is brand new and would need some work, but I think it would be a relatively stress-free (people would bring their own entertainment), fun fundraiser. I know a number of people I could contact. The hardest part would be setting up a sound system... I know nothing about that... but it's an idea to consider for a future date.

On a different note, I am on the radio! Not about community gardening but about food stamps. I was contacted by a reporter from Boise State radio. The first of this month I went shopping and I'm quoted in this program a few times. It was an interesting experience, and I think it's a very well-put-together program.

And last but not least, there are little tiny spinach plants poking up in my garden!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In the News!

Here I am! Before long I shall take over the world... one garden at a time... (or not)
But I HAVE succeeded in creating an endless loop. I link to that page, and that page links to me, creating an infinite cycle!
I think I'm crazy. Long weekends will do that.

Gardens Galore!

This past weekend was full of gardens! I spent Saturday morning digging up more of my yard, and then I spent Saturday afternoon helping my friend in his garden. I pulled a bunch of weeds (something that ALWAYS needs to be done), which oddly enough is very therapeutic for me. Though I wasn't the fastest weed exterminator on the farm, I really enjoyed just sitting down, plucking weeds, and letting my mind wander.
After a trip to Zamzow's (I had never been there! It seemed like a really great place, and the staff seemed very knowledgable), we planted some late-season crops including garlic, spinach, and two other crops I can't remember... As a reward for my efforts I got two giant cucumbers and some tomatoes. It pays to help out in the garden :)
I got so inspired I went home and dug some more, then I planted some beans, spinach, and garlic. The beans probably won't reach their full maturity (I'm pretty certain, in fact), however they are legumes, and legumes are a great source of nitrogen. Nitrogen is pretty much essential for healthy soil, so the hope is that by next season the soil will be fantastic. And even if none of these seeds grow, worst case scenario I am out about $2.50. Even on an Americorps budget, I think I can afford it!
There is SOOO much to do in the next little while! This week, even though it's short, is very busy. Tomorrow I am going to a volunteer expo in the morning to hopefully "glean" (haha) some volunteers or just get my message out there. The more people who know about it, the better! Then on Thursday evening the Foodbank has one of their big events of the year, A Chef's Affaire, which has auctions and amazing food, so I am told. This will be a new experience for me! Then Friday, I am off to Ontario, Oregon for the Community Food Forum. I think this event will be a great chance to meet a lot of community gardening enthusiasts.
I have also hatched an idea that I think will work on a number of levels. It will promote the Foodbank's Community Gardening program, bring community gardeners in the area together, and will generally be a great kick-off event for next season. While doing tons and tons of internet research, I kept coming across events known as Community Seed Swaps. I have never been to one, but it seems like people get together and trade seeds with one another. Like I mentioned already, I think this would be a great chance for people to meet each other, and I think it would just be a lot of fun! Obviously this event wouldn't happen until probably late February or early March, but I will keep it in the back of my mind. I have never coordinated a large-scale event before, especially not with seeds, so that will give me an opportunity to work with some seed experts.
As I dive into this crazy week, the community garden program is beginning to take a real shape. We are still far enough away from next growing season that next spring's planting is hazy in the distance. However the transition from summer to fall signals not only a meteorological shift, but a mental shift for me as well. I am prepared to take on the full community garden responsibility :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Eliminating Food Deserts, one Tomato at a Time

I just returned from a visit to Trinity Community Garden, located on land from Trinity Baptist Church. This garden is just a short jaunt from the Foodbank, and it follows the principles of Square Foot Gardening. For anyone, like me, who doesn't know what that is, the idea is very simple. You make raised beds that are 4 feet x 4 feet, and then you divide each of those boxes up into 1 x 1 sections (so you have a grid containing 16 different squares). Then, you are supposed to concentrate on one box at a time. It requires no tilling, has limited pest problems, and seems generally easier to work with. I know personally that psychologically, this would be easier for me to deal with, rather than a HUGE space. I think this approach is geared toward the beginning gardener especially. The website has a much more comprehensive description of this concept.
The coordinator for the garden is Krista Willmorth, and she and her two children were very eager to show me around. The garden is in its 2nd season and it has sixteen 4 x 4 foot boxes. Most boxes are cared for by members of Trinity's congregation, but a few were also planted by elementary school kids from Liberty Elementary in the spring (the school is located right across the street, so it's perfect!). Their plots included giant, towering sunflowers, good for attracting bees and butterflies. Pollination never hurts!
The church provides all of the necessary materials, including seeds, land, water, and tools. Because of the nature of the square foot gardening program, it requires a low amount of tools, so that is definitely a point in its favor, especially for gardeners with limited funds! They get their water from a nearby canal, so that part of the system is free.
While I was getting the official tour, Krista's 4-year-old daughter kept picking ripe grape tomatoes off of the vine and eating them like candy. Krista also told me that kids get so excited after seeing something grow that they'll eat almost whatever comes out of the garden, even if they didn't like it before. Right as I was leaving, students from Liberty Elementary and their teacher were rejoicing over the size of the sunflowers, and looking at the fruits (literally!) of their spring labor.
It is especially exciting to me to see kids getting excited about this. Maybe, at least some of us, can start to get the younger generation away from the fast food mentality. When a kid gets excited over a garden-fresh tomato rather than a hamburger from McDonald's, I would say that's a step in the right direction.
Lisa Johanon in inner-city Detroit had the same kind of idea. In an area known as a "food desert" where most residents bought their groceries from a local liquor store, she decided it was time to get them some fresh produce! So with some help, she converted a retired UPS truck, filled it with produce, and drove it around the neighborhood.
My hope, not just for Idaho but for community gardeners everywhere, is that these gardens will help people living in food deserts, and maybe someday, eliminate them. Not only that, but it will get people excited about fresh food, just like those kids I saw today, and give them a reason to get excited about what they eat.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Very exciting news (for me personally, anyway)!! There are little pumpkin plants poking out of the soil in the garden at my house. Though I doubt that they will actually become full-grown pumpkins before the season is over, it is one of the most exciting things in the world to see that. Maybe I have been really busy, but it seemed like they came up really fast! This is so exciting... I'll have to post some pictures. After so much talk, I'm going to try and get the worm bin started this weekend. There's really no rush, but since this weekend is a long weekend I might actually have more time. I think I'll dig around in the yard some more and expand the garden as well. Mother Earth News tells me I can plant spinach right now, so why not?? I think I'm going to head over to Edward's Greenhouse today, because I think they carry heirloom varieties.
I also have several tomatoes left from the garden on Friday, and have yet to save any seed. However, apparently saving tomato seed is easy... you essentially scoop out the seeds with your thumb, a spoon, whatever, soak them with the juice in a jar, then add a bit of water. You let the jar sit for a few days in a warm place, stir it ocassionally. Mold should form on the top of the water, and then you clean the seeds with water. The mature seeds will sink to the bottom, and the mold and immature seeds will pour out when the contents of the jar are dumped. There's a much better description in the Seed Ambassadors zine, which is where I got this information from. They also tell you how to save LOTS of other seeds as well. I think I posted it on here before, but it's definitely worth posting again. In the spirit of seed saving, this information is completely free for anyone to download who wants it.
As an update, I went grocery shopping with the reporter from the radio on Tuesday. I ended up talking a lot about the VISTA program, because as far as I'm concerned, it was incredibly easy for me to get food stamps. So my food stamp story may not necessarily be... your average story! I essentially chose to have them, and most people... don't (obviously). It was probably interesting for them, anyway. Hopefully!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Life is full of produce!

To continue our tour of area gardens, Cindy and I went to the Synagogue garden by the Ahavath Beth Israel Synagogue. This is a garden solely for refugees, and in its present state it serves 21 refugee families. The majority of these families are Somali Bantu, although there are a few families from Afghanistan and other areas. At the beginning of the season, many volunteers are needed to help set things up, and the coordinator, Aimee Moran, makes sure that the refugees have sufficient donations, etc. Volunteers are also needed at the end of the season to clean everything up. Besides that, however, the gardening is left entirely up to the refugees themselves. Which, clearly, is the way it should be. They are allowed to grow whatever they want however they want, and they maintain it throughout the season. This attitude is important to remember when doing community garden work; from the perspective of the Foodbank, for example, it would be far too easy to regulate things too closely, and to require gardeners to donate some of their produce to us. Be that as it may, the most sustainable community gardening technique is to let the locals run it. Generally, they will have a much better idea of what works in their area than an outsider would, anyway.
While we were there, a lovely woman from Ukraine loaded us down with vegetables from her garden. We received fresh parsley, all sorts of tomatoes, squash, hot peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers. This food was a perfect addition to the basil and oregano I had from the Community Tapestry Garden on Wednesday! On Friday I mixed everything together and made some spaghetti sauce from scratch. It was delicious, and not very complicated to make. It was amazing to have such fresh ingredients (not to mention free)!
We asked the coordinator of the garden, Aimee Moran, what her needs for the garden are. She told us the need for volunteers at the start and end of the season, and mentioned having volunteers to help clean up the commons area in the garden. She also mentioned that it would be great to have some kind of hands-on, how-to classes. This is a great idea, and while I had thought of it beforehand I need to pursue it. If the Foodbank is going to offer all sorts of other resources, why not free classes?? We have the resource of Master Gardeners and possibly even Boise State students. Why not arrange for horticulture students to get credit by teaching others how to garden? We also have the resource of local farmers, who clearly, could be of great help (If they can spare time, of course! Having been on a farm myself I know how busy it is). Just some ideas to throw around! There's often so much local wealth in a community if you just take the time to look around you.
I did remember my camera, but I took a lousy picture and ended up using the one from their website instead... oh well!

On the Food Stamps topic again, Boise State Radio/NPR News is doing a story on Food Stamps. They want to go shopping with someone who has a Food Stamp budget, so I volunteered. Maybe somehow I can get myself onto the radio...? I'm not counting on it, but it would be great to be able to talk on Boise radio about community gardens... we shall see!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A little while ago I posted some pictures of a patch dug up in my yard, in hopes of making my own domestic garden. Well, my housemate got so excited she went out and bought some seeds yesterday! The way we look at it, we really have nothing to lose. If the plants don't amount to much (which is VERY likely) we can still test out the quality of our soil, and see if anything will actually grow. And hopefully by next season we can have a lovely, active garden!
I was pretty excited when I saw the soil, though. We threw some worm compost on top of it, and my housemate added some Epsom salt. This stuff is, honestly, poor man's fertilizer. When I first moved in, she told me she grew corn out of pretty terrible soil using this stuff (and water, of course). You can get cartons of it for pretty cheap from the grocery store (not sure how much... but it's used for other stuff, too). The soil looked very dark and rich... it was pretty exciting. As a soil nerd (I should have majored in soil science in college), I love this stuff.
We also have tubs of dead leaves raked from the yard, so I'm going to start throwing my kitchen scraps on top of them (I cook a bit, so there should be plenty to add!). I'm going to expand the garden as well, and maybe try planting some garlic... apparently you can grow it from the clove! I had no idea! Again, it probably won't work, but I just want to get dirty and put something in the soil. I'm also going to get serious about starting a worm bin this weekend. The addition of more worm castings could not possibly hurt the soil, and the stuff I can't use I'll stick in the freezer in ziplock bags. Everything helps, and it will be exciting to me just to watch the worms in action! And to have a place to throw my kitchen scraps. It will just encourage me to cook more (which is not a bad thing)!
Tonight I plan to make some spaghetti sauce from scratch using fresh oregano, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, garlic, and other spices that I can get my hands on. I need to go to the store... I'd also like to bake something.
Today Cindy and I will be visiting a refugee garden on Latah street here in town. It's on the land of a synagogue and I actually live about 2 blocks away from it. It's right next to a park, and you can see the foothills in the background. A beautiful setting for a garden! I've walked by it many times but never actually visited, and I'm very excited to make a trip out there. I am slowly but surely putting together that community garden map, though I need to get some more pictures... many times I've either forgotten my camera or forgotten the memory card.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Food Stamps and Farmer's Markets!

Today I will digress a little from my usual topic, but I thought this was definitely worth mentioning.
Food stamps. Up until recently, I didn't really know they existed. Nobody in my family ever had them. I might have had some friends whose families used food stamps, but it never came up in casual conversation. Sort of a taboo subject, generally speaking... However, things have changed for me. As a VISTA, I make poverty level income, and due to certain job stipulations I automatically qualify for food stamps. And so here I am, a food stamp recipient! I have, technically, a government job, and on top of that, I also have assistance from the government.
I am not the only person who is new to this situation. Many more people, due to the current economy, are on food stamps who did not used to be. It's easy for me, because I only have to buy food for myself, but at the same time I generally shy away from buying produce at Farmer's Markets because they don't accept food stamps. This is a conflicted area for me, because I really like to support farmer's markets when I can.
However! A new program through the Idaho Office for Refugees has started accepting food stamps at the Boise Farmer's Market. The Idaho Office for Refugees, specifically the Global Gardens program, has several refugee gardens that it coordinates throughout Boise. One of these gardens is actually a Somali Bantu community farm, and starting this Saturday their farm stand accepted food stamps. This will be the case every Saturday, 9:30 AM-1:30 PM, at the Capitol City Public Market on 8th Street in Boise, as well as every Tuesday night at Edward's Greenhouse from 5:30-dark. Unfortunately I believe the season is nearing its close, but there's still some time and next year, too!
If other food stamp recipients are anything like me, when something like this becomes available they jump on it. I would imagine that this new development will really increase the farm stand's income. Take my example, for instance. As soon as my food stamps were approved, I went to the co-op (yes, the co-op in Boise accepts them!) and went a little crazy. It was completely guilt-free food shopping, and I live for good food. I would not have bought groceries at the co-op normally (and probably won't always do it in the future... even with food stamps it's pretty expensive), but because of my food stamp money I felt I could afford it.
This video from CBS goes along the same line, and I would say, at least judging by my case, that it is definitely true. Who knows what will happen? All I know is, it's good for everyone involved that the Somali Bantu farm now accepts food stamps. It's good for the farmers, because they will probably see an increase in sales, and it's good for the food stamp recipients, because they can buy fresh produce.

On a gardening note, I moved some tubs of dead leaves from my backyard yesterday, and they are already turning into fantastic compost. Gardening really is something that is accessible to almost everyone, and no matter how much research I do, there are a million different ways to do it. Like so many things, it is often a process of trial and error.

And finally! I found this website called Green Maps. Throughout the world, people have been making these maps to point out the "green" places in their areas (i.e. parks, community gardens, natural landmarks,...). They're fun to look through, and people chose to map many different things. Boise does not have a green map... perhaps I can take some of my work and make one down the line...? Only time can tell!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This morning, after dragging myself drowsily out of bed, I visited the Community Tapestry Garden. This garden is located on land donated by St Stephen's Episcopal Church on Cole Road, and is maintained through a very fascinating partnership. The garden is in close proximity to both a retirement community and the Hays Shelter for at-risk youth. Many of the seniors are very knowledgable about gardening, but they lack the physical ability to grow a garden themselves. The youth at the Shelter lack the knowledge, but they have the physical ability. Therefore, this garden partners these two groups together. The youth learn from the elderly and they work together.
Millie Miles, who is an the Advanced Master Gardener from University of Idaho Extension, graciously showed me the garden today. She told me that even though some kids will at first be very distant and think gardening is "stupid", that eventually everyone participates on some level. These levels vary, and due to the rotating nature of volunteers there are no designated plots. Similar to Boise's Downtown Community Garden, there is more of a "communal gardening" approach. The garden has been alive in the minds of gardeners for 5 years, and in the near future they hope to expand to include plots for refugees. This would introduce some designated family plots, and would really add to the diversity of this gardening space! Before I left, Millie and another volunteer loaded me up with some freshly picked basil and oregano straight from nature's bounty. All in all, not a bad visit!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Newspaper!

Here I am! My ticket to stardom... (or something)
Also, I found this interesting compost article: 75 Things You Can Compost, But Thought You Couldn't. Some, I am not sure I would want to handle long enough to compost... but it's still interesting! The less garbage, the better, right?

Friday, August 21, 2009

I realize, very belatedly, that I forgot to mention something in my last post! On Saturday, I helped to glean beans for the Foodbank. While slaving away under the sun (and being reminded of long, warm farm days), I happened to be picking in the row next to... dun dun dun... the reporter from the Idaho Statesman who contacted me about a month ago! So we had a brief, in-the-field interview (seemed appropriate), and a photographer came and took some pictures of me in the dirt. It was so funny, I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time! So I will be in the newspaper (eventually... I haven't seen it yet. Once I do I will link it from here) for two things: gleaning and community gardens! Apparently. We'll see how that works out. There was another man picking beans next to me, and he was 73 years old. I was pretty impressed.

As mentioned last time, I met with my potluck acquaintance on Wednesday and we discussed gardens for around two hours, after I was served fresh pumpkin pie (not a bad way to spend the evening!). He is building a passive solar, earth-sheltered greenhouse. Right now it's just a huge hole in the yard (10x12 feet wide, 3 feet and 6 feet deep in different places). I would attempt to explain it here but it would take a long time... but essentially he's using air convection (cold air sinks into the 6-foot-deep part, warms up, rises into the 3-foot-deep part), black barrels full of water for heat (heated by the sun), dirt piled on three sides (earth sheltered), glass, and salvaged materials. He also had a solar food dehydrator with tomatoes drying in it. On top of that, he had a few fruit trees, rounded raised beds in the permaculture style that were easier to water, an herb spiral, and of course the garden itself. We discussed more than I can possibly write here, but I will be putting this information together for the garden pamphlet of sorts.

Today I met with Shana Moore, who coordinates the Jordan Street Garden in Boise. This garden is located about a block away from a refugee apartment complex, and each family that put in some effort at the beginning of the season has their own plot. This garden has only been around since mid-May, but it was very impressive!! It obviously serves as a community meeting place as well as a food-gathering place, because there were tables, chairs, etc. It seems obvious, but the fact that this garden is so close to that apartment complex has definitely helped it to thrive. When the garden is practically at your back door, it's very easy to walk to it and weed or water something! And not only that, but there is a good chance you will meet someone that you know.

I think it's amazing how so many of these gardens I have seen, practically all of them, are in their first season. This just shows the appropriate timing of my job and the appropriate timing of my work. There is much to do...

Monday, August 17, 2009


This past Friday, Cindy and I visited two more community gardens in Boise. Our first stop was Boise's Downtown Community Garden (pictured to the left), which is located on Fort Street between 11th and 12th (near the Co-op). I liked this garden a lot; mostly because it made gardening seem very approachable. They basically planted food anywhere it would go, and this results in a hodge-podge of plots that I found delightful. The garden had several circular beds in it, and in one instance a tall crop was planted around the outer edge of the circle (it was either corn or sunflowers, I can't remember) to protect a smaller crop on the inside (peppers maybe?). This garden doesn't have any individually designated plots; instead, it functions on the philosophy of "unified" or "communal" gardening. No money is ever exchanged at this site; this means that if anyone wants to come and help weed or help in some other way, they get vegetables in exchange for their labor. This is the garden's first season.

Our final stop was at a refugee garden. This garden is part of a program known as "Eat Local, Live Global" under a group called Common Ground and it helps to train refugees and give them the skills necessary for the job market. We got a tour from the head gardener. His name is Devi and he is from Bhutan, and very clearly knows what he is doing. This garden was possibly the largest we have seen yet, and it was very, very, very impressive. There are two sections in it: the market garden, where they grow produce for the Farmers' Market, and a garden for customer produce. For a flat rate of $250 at the start of the season, families or individuals can purchase a plot. The refugees tend this plot throughout the season and the customer gets to enjoy the produce. I was honestly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of food, and the order of absolutely everything.

I was feeling very inspired after seeing these gardens, and this was only perpetuated over the weekend. I went to a potluck on Saturday and saw the amazing garden in the backyard of the host's house. It included a rotating compost barrel, solar food dehydrator, fruit-bearing trees, herbs, and several plots. On Thursday I should have more information, because he has agreed to sit down with me and talk to me in detail about his gardening practices. This will be highly beneficial to the future gardening packet and helpful to me personally, because he has several contacts within the community.

I can feel things starting to pick up slightly... people have begun calling my office and I suddenly have things to do and places to go. It is wonderful to be busy. The community gardens map is coming along slowly, though I know there are several gardens that I haven't even heard about yet.

I moved that poor (probably doomed) basil plant outside... it was suffering from neglect in my room, and if a rabbit hasn't chewed it to shreds (I forgot to check it this morning) hopefully it will rejoice in the sun today. I should really just abandon all hope of growing plants inside... I've had trouble with almost every indoor plant I've ever owned. Once it's in the ground, that's a different story.

Ay me, the contradictions of being a Community Garden Coordinator!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Success!


I finally finished digging up a portion of my yard yesterday. I think I'm going to transplant my poor basil plant... it is seriously unhappy in its present location (my desk) and it would be a shame if I killed yet ANOTHER indoor plant (what kind of a Community Garden Coordinator am I?!).





Anyway the pictures are before and after pictures for your viewing pleasure.




I found this swell website called Mapwith.Us that lets you create maps for free (that are available to the public) when you sign up with an account (which I did!). I found it because one of the users had made a map of Portland Community Gardens. And then, of course, the logical next step was to search for a map of Idaho Community Gardens. It appears, through my search, that this sort of map doesn't exist. From the perspective of a geography major (oh wait, that's me!) who has some training in cartography, I see this as a challenge. It will be quite the undertaking, but I would like to make a map of Treasure Valley Community Gardens for people to refer to. And, if possible, I would also like to make a map of bait shops, nurseries, and landscaping companies. I will need to gather a LOT of data, however. As far as Community Gardens go, obviously I am visiting some of them, but I'm sure there are many that I will have to dig up (haha). However if anyone reading this has any information, PLEASE let me know! I think this could be a valuable resource. And anyway, maps are fun!



I am hungry already and it isn't even noon yet... I think it gets earlier every day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Before I begin my usual garden banter, I'm curious about something... how many people read this? So if any readers could do me a favor, I promise it won't take too long, and leave a comment. I don't care what you say and you don't have to identify yourself, I'm just wondering how large my "sphere of influence" is.
On Friday Cindy and I did head out to our scheduled community garden visits. Alas, I have no pictures, as it was, oddly enough, raining all day! I'm told that weather is unusual for August... I didn't mind though. It reminded me of rainy summer days in Minnesota, and I always enjoy a good thunderstorm.
The first garden was part of the Emmett Valley Friendship Coalition. The garden is 1 and 3/4 acres in size and is full of vegetable goodness. As we were walking through, I tried some cherry tomatoes, which were amazing, and I was given some corn and a squash! I am always excited about free food, especially fresh vegetables! I'm hoping to sautee the squash with some rice for dinner tonight, and maybe have some corn on the cob as well. The man in charge of the garden, whose official title is Biomass Coordinator, is Morris Huffman. He told us in depth about installing irrigation, harvesting, and their very interesting system of planting corn. Instead of planting it all at exactly the same time, they plant each row about a week apart. This means that instead of harvesting everything at once in a mad frenzy, they harvest each row about a week apart, as it matures. There are so many techniques... no matter how many garden books you read or workshops you attend, most wisdom comes from doing and adapting to your circumstances. Each garden is different. This one was particularly beautiful and large. I could almost feel the celebration of the plants with the rainfall.
The second garden was in Garden City, and it is called the Boise Vineyard. We met with Larry Parry, who I spoke to over the phone, and Bill Meeker, the resident Master Gardener. Even though he has Parkinson's, Bill Meeker is still out there gardening madly away, and he was obviously so excited to show it to us. This garden was, again, very large and beautiful. I tried some sort of strange, exotic berry. I can't remember what it's called but it was very bitter. I was pleased that I could recognize most of the plants from my farm days, though my memory is a little hazy at times. They also gave us very good news; there are apparently people calling them all the time offering land to donate! So we told them to send them our way. Those are just the kind of people we are looking for.
After that enlightening experience, I was so inspired I spent 5 hours digging up part of my yard on Sunday (with permission, of course). It isn't finished yet... I haven't done that sort of manual labor in a while and I'm pretty sore today, but I know what lies ahead. As far as I'm concerned, growing your own food is the ultimate do-it-yourself project, and a huge step towards self-sufficiency. I can't wait to pick something, walk 10 feet to my kitchen, prepare it, and eat it. That's assuming that I don't destroy the soil and kill everything by next growing season...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Well! This Friday, my supervisor and I have two appointments to go see some area community gardens. The first is a garden run by the Emmett, Idaho United Methodist Church called the Emmett Friendship Garden. A few of my co-workers have already visited this garden, and I have heard amazing things. It's apparently very large and beautiful. I e-mailed the man in charge of it, John Biggs, and he was very prompt in his response. He very enthusiastically offered to show us the garden and then suggested that all of us go out to lunch!
I pushed back my fear of professional telephone conversations and called Larry Parry, who is in charge of the Boise Vineyard. I set up an appointment to follow the one in Emmett, and he suggested that the resident Master Gardener attend the meeting as well. I have heard about this place from co-workers, too; apparently people get married here.
By some definitions, these two gardens may not strictly qualify as community gardens, but I feel like they most definitely should. The community is most definitely benefited by them. I am very excited to go on a mini "road trip" and see these wonderful places! I'm going to bring my camera along and FINALLY, there will be some relevant pictures on here.
In personal news, I brought my suffering basil plant to work to try and rehabilitate it. I must admit, I am slightly embarrassed that here I am, the Community Garden Coordinator, and I have a dying basil plant on my desk. Hopefully that won't turn any community garden hopefuls away...
I have also gotten permission to dig up part of my yard to make a garden!! I hope to start breaking ground (literally!) this weekend. Since it's so late in the season I will probably not be planting anything, but I can still condition the soil for next spring. Because I've also gotten permission to have a worm bin! I can add the worm castings as they are produced. I am very excited to start digging around in the dirt again. While I love my job dearly, I do find myself occasionally infected by a ray of sunlight and yearning for farm life. But this way, I can have a little bit of both :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Because I get tired of text all the time, here's another picture I took. Idaho is pretty!

To further my animal research, I have been looking up all sorts of information about goats today. I'm not sure if this information will become moot... I have a feeling the city of Boise doesn't allow residents to have goats as pets. It seems like most cities don't allow this, however in Seattle, they do! But if there is, say, a farmer that has land to offer, then maybe goats would be OK there.

ANYWAY, i found The Goat Justice League, which is a pretty hilarious title in and of itself. I'm considering getting a T-shirt. I imagine a lot of cartoon goats saving people from burning buildings (but I think sitting in front of a computer so much is making me slightly crazy)... This website seems to be The Place to learn about keeping goats in a city environment. I've spent most of the morning trying to find information like this. There's tons of information about chickens but this is all I really came up with for goats. It looks like a thorough source, too, and should add greatly to my growing list of information.
In other news, I think my basement plant experiment is failing. I went the cheap route and bought a basil plant that was on sale and a natural light bulb from Walgreens. I put the plant on a table directly under a lamp, and I leave the light on while I'm at work. To ease my guilt about leaving a light on all day I unplug my computer.

However a large portion of the basil plant is wilting already, despite my efforts to check the soil, water it when it's dry, and add a few drops of plant food with the water. This has been a constant theme in my life... indoor plants die. I guess I should stick to the outdoor stuff. :/
I also found this Composting 101 website. I'm not sure why I didn't find it before, but it seems really great and comprehensive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For variety's sake, here's a picture I took over the weekend. I am continually awed by the landscape out here and the sheer vastness of everything. Though it's sometimes too hot for my liking and much drier than I am used to, I still think the landscape is fascinating and beautiful.
Yesterday while at work, I started thinking about the kinds of things people might like to do in their gardens. And I thought... bees! Some friends of my family keep bees in their backyard, in the middle of my home town, and they were telling me some about them. I am no expert, obviously, but as far as "pets" go it sounds like you set the bees up initially and they pretty much take care of themselves. They're also very, very good for the neighborhood because of... pollination! A story I came across yesterday (the location since lost in a flood of information) talked about an apple tree in someone's backyard. It produced a very small amount of apples, but once either that family or the neighbors started having bees in the backyard, the apple crop increased exponentially.
As for people who would be interested in having bees, I found some resources. Gobeekeeping has free online classes, a coloring book (which I thought was fun... my sparse cubicle wall could use some decoration), and various other resources on its website. This website on backyard beekeeping is more geared towards someone living in a city environment, and has a lot of useful tips. For instance, if you "smoke" the bees, they are convinced there's a forest fire. So they rush back to their hive, gorge on honey (to save it, presumably), and once they are full of that liquid gold they are much more docile. And apparently, honey bees are often mixed up with yellow jackets, the bees that sting more often. I remember when I worked on the farm and the cucumbers, zucchini, and squash were blossoming. There were bees absolutely everywhere pollinating like crazy, and even though I had to essentially stick my face in this swarm day after day, I was never stung. Fun fact! I also thought it was interesting that I couldn't find a comprehensive Beekeeper's Association for southern Idaho.
My animal research naturally extended to chickens. It turns out that in the city of Boise, you can have up to three "pet" hens but no roosters in your yard (except in restricted neighborhoods). I think that's really interesting. I found this information at The City Chicken, not a city of Boise website, so it may not be entirely accurate. But if it is, I was very interested to read that in Minneapolis, the number of chickens you can have is unlimited, as long as they are penned and you have permission from 80 percent of your neighbors (This information is on the chicken laws page, and it has laws from all over the country).
Then, when searching how to build a cheap greenhouse, I stumbled across Instructables, an amazing website commited to the Do-It-Yourself philosophy. I promptly signed up for a free account and have been spending much too much time searching it for ideas to make stuff. On the subject of chickens I found a page that instructs you how to build a backyard chicken coop and how to clip chickens' wings. There were so many more, but I had to limit myself and stay on task :) When I dealt with chickens on the farm last summer, I was generally afraid of them... but there's really no reason to be. Whenever they saw me coming, they would crouch down and spread their wings out. I think they're generally pretty terrified of... everything. When I managed to collect my first egg, I felt like I was on top of the world. It took almost all of the courage I had to physically reach under that hen and make off with her egg.
And, I did find a solution for a cheap greenhouse on Instructables here. It's very small, but it's very cheap! With the cost of it you could make a lot of small ones!
I was also very delighted to discover in this Instructables that the Starbucks policy of giving away their coffee grounds for fertilizer is universal. I was under the impression it was only in Boise, but according to this you can go to any Starbucks and simply ask for it.
In my research I've been focusing heavily on the cheap, easy side of things. If I had to guess, I would assume most people who will (hopefully) be wanting to start community gardens next season won't have a lot of resources at their disposal. And as a branch of a non-profit organization either do we. That part of the starving college student mentality may serve me well this coming year!