Lifestyle

Community gardens are a growing trend on Bainbridge

There’s a new idea taking root at the Island Terrace apartments.

On Tuesday a truck dumped a load of dark soil on a tidy grass lawn beside the complex’s playground off High School Road. During a work party on May 9, the soil will be spread into bins and beds, and residents will soon begin planting their first community garden.

“The tenants are really excited,” said Renee’ Levesque, who manages the 48 affordable apartments for Housing Resources Board. “To me, this is only going to enhance the community.”

The beds at Island Terrace will be just the latest of a bevy of new community gardens to sprout up around the island this year, on both public and private land. In April, Trust For Working Landscapes opened 14 p-patch spaces on the city’s Johnson Farm property, while Liz Gadbois, owner of Bottoms Up farm on Manzanita, offered up 13 patches.

The plots were filled quickly by prospective farmers, spurred on by an interest in local foods, the economy or a search for sun.

“It’s great to grow your own food. It’s fun, it’s good for kids, it’s easy on the budget,” said Laurel Powell, who is tending a patch on Gadbois’ property. “It’s good clean fun... good dirty fun.”

Organizers say the seeds for several community garden projects were sown at a Sustainable Bainbridge meeting in March, where a large crowd discussed how to integrate more farming into the island. The conversation has continued since, with pockets of islanders sharing ideas.

It gave island writer Althea Paulson the idea of creating a set of garden patches at Island Terrace. Paulson is friends with a tenant there who has diabetes and struggles to stay healthy. She said she realized a ready source of fresh food could be a boon for her friend and other tenants.

The idea was well received at a community meeting of Island Terrace tenants and quickly won support from HRB, which has already installed gardens at several of its properties. With help from islanders Debbi Lester and Chuck Estin, plans took shape last month.

The garden will incorporate several raised beds (adapting horse watering troughs), which can be wheelchair accessible for the complex’s 10 disabled residents. Several more will be low, boxed beds, and a play patch for kids will be dug in by the playground.

Levesque said the tenants have decided to set aside a row in the garden to grow food for Helpline House. Many of the tenants have received assistance from Helpline, she said.

“We want to be able to give back, so the idea of being able to grow our own veggies and give those back is fabulous,” Levesque said.

Building captains have been picked among the tenants and will be responsible for managing planting in various plots. Levesque believes the garden will become a gathering place for residents and neighbors, a place for barbecues and visiting outdoors.

Plenty of work needs to be done before then.

The group has roped in support from around the community, including donations of fertilizer, and offers of volunteer labor from Camp Siberia students. It’s still looking to raise more in money and materials to help with the project’s $1,500 budget. And it’s hoping islanders will pitch in during a May 9 work party, when ground will be broken on the plots.

Organizers of the Island Terrace gardens have plenty to draw inspiration from.

The 14 plots offered by Trust for Working Landscapes on the city-owned Johnson Farm property off Fletcher Bay Road were snapped up quickly last month.

Organizer Christy Carr said the new farmers are preparing to plant a kaleidoscope of vegetables, berries and flowers. The Historical Society has already laid in a patch of Marshall strawberries, once the staple of Bainbridge’s berry industry.

Carr said the farmers have been brought out by a mix of reasons. Some have too much shade or not enough sun at their own homes to garden. But sustainability and the economy are on the minds of many.

“I think a lot of things have come together, and people are really taking action with local food,” Carr said. “And what better way than to grow it yourself?”

Islanders can still hop on the waiting list for Johnson Farm patches. Carr said that if demand grows large enough, TWL may look into opening patches on the Morales Property off Lovegreen Road, which it also manages for the city. But the group will have to decide whether there’s enough water there to support more planting.

A bounty is also being planted up the way from Johnson Farm on Gadbois’ Manzanita Road property.

In the past, Gadbois has hosted concerts and art shows to raise awareness of dwindling farmland on the island. This year she’s using the gardens a way of reconnecting families with the earth.

“It feels really authentic,” Gadbois said. “It seems like the right thing to do with the land.”

Review reporter Sean Roach contributed to this story.\

Dig in

The Island Terrace garden project is looking for donations to help offset the cost of materials. Checks can be sent to HRB, P.O. Box 11391, Bainbridge Isl., WA 98110. Include “Island Terrace Community Garden” in the memo line.

A work party will be held at Island Terrace beginning at 11 a.m. on May 9. Contact debbilester@yahoo.com for information.

To add your name to the waiting list for TWL p-patches, contact chcarr@w-link.net.

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