Portland is affectionately known as Rose City, but the local landscape produces an amazing range of plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
Nature and community are two of the most cherished aspects in Portland, so it's easy to see why these things combine at local community gardens.
In 1975, city leaders got the ball rolling with the Community Gardens program. Residents team up with Portland Parks & Recreation employees to create and nurture 58 gardens throughout the city, with some welcome physical activity and social interaction as a bonus.
Each year, plots are assigned between February and June, with a limit of one plot per household. One person is designated as the primary gardener, who is expected to complete at least half the work on their household's plot.
Plot sizes run from 50 to 800 square feet, along with a smaller ADA-accessible raised bed. Annual fees are determined on a sliding scale based on household size and income, running between $5-$220. Scholarships covering up to 75 percent of the fees are available to qualified households.
In the spirit of cooperation, all gardeners complete a minimum of six hours of service per year on outside plots in their garden. Common tasks can include weeding the paths and fence lines or cleaning the tool shed.
Produce for People is a side project in which gardens contribute fruits and vegetables to local food banks and shelters. Produce grown in community gardens includes a variety of versatile, nutrient-rich foods such as tomatoes, green beans, winter squash, zucchini, collard greens, and cucumbers.
Friends of Portland Community Gardens
When budget cuts threatened to shut down the Community Gardens program in 1985, another group stepped in to form Friends of Portland Community Gardens. Like Community Gardens, the non-profit organization has a mission to promote the development of healthy food and community bonds.
FPCG does not have its own network of gardens. Rather, it functions as a support system for the city's program along with other non-Parks & Recreation gardens throughout Portland. This support takes the form of providing supplies, cash awards, fiscal sponsorships, and educational resources. Occasionally, as in the case of Crossroads Community Garden, FPCG will coordinate efforts of interested parties who want to create a new garden.
As with any non-profit, FPCG is dependent on volunteers. Supporters can sign up to work in the field or at special events. The organization also looks for help with committees like Finance, Fundraising, Volunteer Recruitment, and Marketing. Individual and family memberships are available for annual fees of $25 and $45, respectively.
Grow Portland, founded in 2010, was initially built on the foundation so wonderfully established by Community Gardens and FPCG. Five years later, Grow Portland expanded on that mission by reaching out to the next generation of gardeners.
When Grow Portland discovered that teachers wanted to offer garden-based education but lacked resources, the organization started programs to address the need. They later joined forces with Portland Earth, Art, & Agriculture Project to use gardens at public schools as an innovative way to teach kids about ecology, art, and food.
In the meantime, Grow Portland continues to support community gardening throughout the city. Their work is currently focused in East Portland.
Activities of Grow Portland have also placed an emphasis on refugees and immigrants. Expansion of community gardening access for this segment created an increase in "healing spaces" for families dealing with displacement and trauma.
Results tell the story. According to studies of Grow Portland participants, 100 percent reported reduced levels of stress and increased physical activities, with greater consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Gardeners harvest an average of $500 worth of organic produce each year, for a significant financial savings.
Want to support Grow Portland? The organization welcomes monthly and annual donations, and some companies have a matching program for charitable giving by employees.
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