Enthusiasm for community gardening on Bainbridge is blooming.
A meeting hosted by Sustainable Bainbridge last Monday night drew a standing-room-only crowd at Bainbridge Commons, where an asssortment of guest speakers and information tables offered support, ideas and inspiration - even some lettuce sprouts. When the evening concluded, over a dozen folks had signed up for new community garden plots at the city's Johnson Farm on Fletcher Bay Road, and a spearhead group had been formed to look at creating a community garden for the residents of Island Terrace, the city's low-income housing site on High School Rd. and Ferncliff.
Seattle pea patches have become magnets for neighborhood connection, education, original artwork, even music events. At their best, Pernitz said, a community garden can provide a place for people to meet and create all kinds of new growth - in all kinds of ways.
Sandy Pernitz, who manages the Seattle Pea-Patch program in conjunction with the city's Department of Neighborhoods, kicked things off with a review of the elements that have made some 2500 pea patches successful in the Seattle area. Community gardens - or "pea-patches" - have transformed many abandoned, vacant, and ill-used urban spaces into places where fresh food is grown by and for a divierse group of community members, including youth groups, non-profits, and market gardeners. In one case, Pernitz said neighborhood members had transformed a popular drag-racing strip into a thriving garden landscape.
Peg Tillery, of the Kitsap County Extension Agency (in cooperation with Washington State University) also spoke of the value of community gardens, which are on the rise on this side of Puget Sound. In Poulsbo, Frank Raab Park on Caldart Ave. offers pea patches, along with a children's garden, and this spring, some North Kitsap elementary school cafeterias will serve fresh, locally-grown greens on Fridays. In Bremerton, 68 pea-patch plots will be under cultivation at Blueberry Park on Sylvan Way this season as part of an effort by a community group that has dubbed itself the Bremerton Urban Garden Society (BUGS). Port Orchard gardeners are looking at a new site at Jackson and Lund, and other possible venues seem to be popping up around Kitsap County as fast as spring dandilions.
Here on Bainbridge, the movement to grow more fresh, locally-grown food is also vibrant. With all pea patches spoken for at Battle Point Park and Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, aspiring community gardeners are looking for - and finding - other potential sites to grow food. A large map posted at Monday's meeting tagged pieces of land that might constitute a garden "wish list" for neighborhoods around the island, including Gideon Park in Winslow, Eagledale Park, the parade grounds at Fort Ward, and some privately-owned locations. The map will continue to be developed with input from community members, and we hope to find a way to post it on this (Sound Food) website as the growing season unfolds.
There was plenty of hands-on expertise available at Monday's meeting too, with advice from island garden experts like Chuck Estin and Ann Lovejoy. Tables around the room offered information about the Trust for Working Landscapes, which is overseeing the Johnson Farm pea patches, and Community Supported Agriculture opportunities - another excellent way to bring fresh, local food into your kitchen. (For information about CSAs, click on our Local Food Map, located at the top of this page.)
With the enthusiasm generated at last week's meeting, there's plenty of reason to continue the conversation about community gardening on Bainbridge. We hope the Sound Food website will be a place residents can track ideas and projects as they develop - so, stay tuned!
Above: Christy Carr of the Trust For Working Landscapes talks about farm locations on Bainbridge. Photo by Debbi Lester.
Feel free to post a comment if you have an idea or interest in community gardens.