Gardening knowledge grows at 78th Street Heritage Farm

Plots offer learning opportunity for community members

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor


Updated: June 3, 2013, 2:07 PM

photoJanet Kelly waters a demonstration plot sponsored by the Growing Groceries program at the 78th Street Heritage Farm. Garden mentors show folks different ways to grow fruits and vegetables.

(/The Columbian)

photoBlair Wolfley

Did you know?

In 2012, 217 at-risk youth and 49 adults worked a quarter-acre of raised garden beds at the 78th Street Heritage Farm to produce 1,700 pounds of produce that was given to the Clark County Food Bank. The project is called the 4-H Restorative Community Service Garden. It is a partnership of the Washington State University Clark County Extension 4-H Youth Development Program and Clark County Juvenile Court. In 2012, the Roots to Road program at the farm used more than an acre to produce 8,000 pounds of produce for the Clark County Food Bank, Salvation Army Family Services, Lord’s Gym, CDM Services and Share. The eight workers last year were veterans, some of them homeless. The program is sponsored by Partners in Careers.

HAZEL DELL — Sean Hawes on Sunday said he's learning lot of about gardening by tending his 20-by-20-foot plot at the 78th Street Heritage Farm.

It's the first year he and wife Kristine have paid $60 to claim a spot at the county's biggest and most diverse community garden, which was once the county's poor farm. He said there just isn't room for a garden at their Vancouver home.

"There's a lot of learning curve for me," Hawes, 28, said as he watered broccoli, corn, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and more. And he is in good company as most of the gardeners at the 78-acre farm are learning more each season.

"This is about learning," said Blair Wolfley, who was a county extension agent for 33 years and now manages the farm for its owner, Clark County. "I think what we do here is good for the body and good for the mind."

The farm serves many. There are 84 plots open to all, and all those plots are sold out. There is an area where youngsters who have had a brush with the law can learn about raised-bed gardening.

There are 2 acres where a coalition of churches raise vegetables for the Clark County Food Bank, which has its own 3 acres. And Master Gardeners have a 1/2-acre plot where they are growing certified organic vegetables.

The farm also is the home of Washington State University Clark County Extension.

In one corner of the farm on Sunday, Jan Kelly was watering plants at the Growing Groceries demonstration plot.

"We teach people to grow vegetables for their table, and for the food bank," Kelly said. She is a garden mentor, showing folks new ways to grow.

For instance, different techniques are used for tomatoes at their plot. A few have "walls of water" around the plant. The plant is surrounded by a sheet of 16 plastic tubes of water, each about 18 inches high. The device protects the plant from wind and the water heats up during the day, providing heat overnight.

Kelly works the plot with Master Gardeners Karen Palmer and Sharon Kitashima.

There is a water spigot for every four plots. Some gardeners have elaborate set-ups with PVC pipes and soaker hoses. The farm even has a shed where owners of all 84 plots can check their mail tube for messages.

"The programs are great, the volunteers are great," Wolfley said.

And the future is bright, he said.

"I visualize this entire farm being demonstrative food production on the urban fringe," Wolfley said.

As for Hawes, the first-year gardener, he's learning and looking forwards to rewards.

"The big thing for us is we don't know a lot about fall plants, so we're going to try spinach."

And the eating ought to be good, he said.

"Take some of the corn, throw it on the barbecue," he said. "Do the same with zucchini."