Gardens sprouting up in city

Organizers hope to increase access to healthful foods

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Dozens of families along the Fourth Plain corridor will be eating local this summer.

A $30,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation paid for the construction of five new neighborhood gardens. Three of them are along Fourth Plain Boulevard, providing residents in three neighborhoods with about 90 gardening plots.

The local gardens will bring a corridor with dozens of convenience stores and fast food restaurants a few more sources of healthful, fresh foods, said Patti Maggiora, co-chairwoman of the Fourth Plain Green Up Team.

“We’ve bought into the idea that convenience is best,” she said. “But the original fast food was walking out your kitchen door and picking it out of the garden.”

Clark County Public Health data shows modern fast food is the most accessible food source along Fourth Plain.

Fifteen healthy-food retail stores (like grocery stores, farmers markets and produce stands) are located within half of a mile of the entire corridor. Within that same area are 158 fast food restaurants and convenience stores, said Brendon Haggerty with Clark County Public Health.

The grant is funding the construction of the three Fourth Plain gardens, as well as two gardens in other Vancouver neighborhoods. Each of the gardens has been established with the assistanc e of local businesses that have donated land, supplies and services, Maggiora said.

The plots range in size from 5 feet by 10 feet to 20 feet by 20 feet. Area residents can rent the plots for $10 to $40 per garden season, depending on the size and location of the plot.

The three gardens are in various stages of construction and gardeners have begun planting their crops in some plots. All three gardens will be in use this summer, Maggiora said.

The first garden, the Village Plaza Garden, is on land west of the IGA store at Fort Vancouver Way and St. Johns Boulevard. The garden has 25 plots, all of which have been purchased.

The second garden, Bagley Green Up Garden, is behind Columbia Signs at 4700 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. The Bagley garden has 22 plots, several of which are still available.

And the third garden funded by the grant, the Columbia River Healthy Garden, occupies 2.5 acres of land owned by Columbia River Mental Health, 6926 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. Right now, the garden has 42 plots, about half of which are spoken for.

The number of plots will double in the next few years, and the garden will also include a fruit and nut orchard.

Maggiora hopes the new gardens are just the beginning. She wants to add three gardens each year until gardens are located within a five-minute walk in all seven neighborhoods along the Fourth Plain corridor.

“We want to transform green spaces that are not being used into usable garden spaces,” Maggiora said.

Joan and Jim Caley plan to plant fingerling potatoes and carrots in their raised bed at the Columbia River Healthy Garden. Up until now, the couple’s only gardening experience has been with tomato plants.

“We’re not gardeners,” Joan Caley said. “It’s going to be an experience.”

“We should know where our food comes from, so we’re gonna try and grow our own,” she added.

In addition, the homegrown food will be fresher, more wholesome and more nutritious than the food people buy at the grocery store, said Gary Bock, executive director for Vancouver Watersheds Council, which administers the grant.

“I think as our community grows, it’s important that we grow our gardens along with the community,” Bock said. “I hope this motivates other neighborhoods to do similar things.”

Marissa Harshman: marissa.harshman@columbian.com; 360-735-4546; or http://twitter.com/col_health.

You can participate

Gardening plots are still available at the Columbia River Healthy Garden and the Bagley Green Up Garden.

Organizers are also looking for volunteers to help build gates, spread bark, install plumbing and complete other tasks to get the gardens operational. In addition, the group is looking for volunteers to provide general maintenance four to six times a year.

Interested gardeners and volunteers can contact Patti Maggiora at patti@abcinc.us.or for more information.