Last week, Wendy Wallingford decided to spend part of her Saturday getting back to basics.
In her job with the Food Sense program at the local branch of Washington State University, Wallingford educates residents about the benefits of healthy nutrition, including food generated from area farms and gardens.
“It’s important to know where food comes from – that it doesn’t grow on store shelves,” Wallingford said.
|West Valley resident Dan Hansen navigates a wheelbarrow to one of 30 garden plots at the launch of the Pumpkin Patch Community Garden in Millwood last Saturday. Close to 40 volunteers showed up to lend support for the project, located off Argonne Road and Maringo. Photo by: Craig Howard
On April 10, Wallingford was among nearly 40 volunteers who contributed to a project that will soon be the home of more local produce. The Pumpkin Patch Community Garden, located off Argonne and Maringo roads in Millwood, now features 30 framed plots thanks to a citizen-based effort that includes contributions from a variety of Spokane-area businesses.
The idea for the garden first emerged last spring at a meeting of the Millwood Better for Business Group, a collection of West Valley companies and nonprofit groups that have helped coordinate events like last summer’s 5K community run. The Inland Empire Paper Co., a member of the MBB and owner of the one-acre field being proposed for the garden, expressed interest in the plan for bringing back a pumpkin patch that had been part of the terrain from the early 1980s until 2004.
Millwood residents like Richard Bohn and groups like Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest were also part of the discussion to preserve the field as a rural site in the midst of suburban development along Argonne.
The conversation lapsed over the winter but enthusiasm for the project was renewed at a community meeting in Millwood last month. The paper company stepped forward to donate the land and water. Other in-kind contributions included sprinkler systems from Dew Drop, lumber for the frames from Idaho Forest Group, 35 yards of soil from Witkopf Landscape Supply and flower seeds from Northwest Seed and Pet.
“It’s really been an amazing community effort,” said Dan Hansen, a West Valley resident who helped haul dirt and construct garden frames last Saturday. “People driving by on Argonne are going to see this lot transformed. By June, it should be green.”
So far, a dozen of the 10 feet by 4 feet plots have been claimed. Hansen said there has been talk of adding five more in the future, bringing the total to 35. Residents will plant, cultivate and care for their individual gardens throughout the spring and summer, most likely growing crops like beans, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes and spinach.
“I’ve always been interested in gardening but we don’t have much sun in our yard, so this will be great,” Wallingford said.
Those who maintain a garden will be charged a nominal $25 fee to cover the costs of a timer for the sprinkler system. There are also plans to till the soil to the north of the plots as part of a plan to bring back the pumpkin patch.
Ken Williams, whose father Elmer oversaw the patch in the 1980s before it was handed over to Bob Critchfield, said the most recent effort on the land “is promoting a green environment.”
“It’s good to see the community taking an interest in it again,” said Williams, who has been a master gardener for the past five years. “I’m glad that the local companies have been so generous.”
The garden is the latest in a series of community projects in Millwood emphasizing locally grown food and nutritional support. Last year, the Millwood Community Presbyterian Church began sponsoring a food distribution day each month in collaboration with Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest. The church was also integral in starting the Millwood Farmers Market, which will celebrate the beginning of its fourth year on May 19. Organizers have mentioned that the community garden could be utilized in the same way as programs like Plant a Row for the Hungry where crops are contributed to local food banks.
“Hopefully this garden can become another one of those places that benefits the community,” said Pastor Craig Goodwin.
Williams said he is hopeful that those who participate in the project will understand that a successful garden “requires a commitment.” He recalls his father, who grew up on a farm in Colville, going the extra mile to make sure the pumpkin patch flourished.
“I think as long as they do the work, it will be successful,” he said.
Hansen, who volunteered at a local farm last fall to pick crops donated to the Spokane Valley Food Bank, said he was encouraged by the turnout last Saturday and the future of the old pumpkin patch.
“I think this will help tie it into the history of the land,” Hansen said. “To me, this is more about community than it is about gardening.”