Volunteers garden to feed hungry people

Volunteers garden to feed hungry people

EUGENE, Ore. — August can be a slow time of year as gardeners wait for their tomatoes to turn red.

For Food for Lane County volunteers, now is anything but slow. Workers at the plot are harvesting and planting for fall and even winter. Volunteers waste very little time in all corners of the Grassroots Garden off Coburg Road in Eugene.

In one corner, volunteers are rifling through the vines to find ripe cucumbers. In another corner, it's summer squash.

“The onions are just coming on, the tomatoes are ripening, the peppers are starting to come on,” Grassroots Garden coordinator Merry Bradley said.

And while Bradley takes time to prune a few tomato branches, the one-pound beefsteaks on the bottom rung are beginning to change color.

“When you look into this greenhouse with these big treelike tomatoes growing and the red fruit hanging on it, it looks like Christmas,” Bradley said.

And a merry Christmas it'll be for those who are counting on fresh produce. This Food for Lane County project is an urban classroom for these novice green thumbs who will also enjoy the fruit of their labor.

“And we learn so much, it's such a valuable resource for the community,” volunteer Faith Brock said.

As you walk around this two and a half acre plot, you'll find vegetables growing at various stages, but they also maximize the space. For instance, in this row of onions, they’ve planted red and green lettuce in the gaps.
 
“We work as much as possible to create year-round production,” Bradley said. “Because people aren't hungry just in the summer.”

“We're using less garden space, giving you more room to plant stuff and on top of that, it keeps the fruit off the ground so it's less likely to rot,” volunteer Chris Wilson said.

And as Wilson ties up more cages for the cucumber plants, Faith Brock carefully plants more seed starts for lettuce to grow during the colder months.
 
“The key is the soil,” Brock said. “We make our own soil.”

And that soil pays off big time for this robust growing space.

Last year, volunteers at the grassroots garden harvested 67,500 pounds of produce for Food for Lane County. If you'd like to sign up to volunteer at one of Food for Lane County's gardens, you can find more information online.