GRANTS PASS, Ore. – This is about the time of year the donations to food pantries really start picking up, but for one area food bank they’ve been picking their own fruit and vegetables.
A farm that looks newly emptied from harvest is all that’s left from a 1/3 of an acre which produced 50,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables this year. Helping out with harvest is a new experience for most of these Grants Pass High School students.
“It’s better than I expected because last year they shoveled manure everywhere so it was kind of a relief,” said Grants Pass Senior Sarah Dole.
The students are out on a service project at the Josephine County Food Bank’s Garden.
“Yeah it’s dirty, but it’s fun,” said Sarah.
“It’s crazy how much we’ve done, and how much a group of teenagers can do in so little time,” said Natalie Justema, another Grants Pass Senior.
“What we have this year is plants that grew well because of the effort of last year,” said Sam Engel, with the Josephine County Food Bank. “Now, what we are doing is pulling up all the plants.”
“We have picked melons from vines, and then we uprooted the vines. We took the metal skewer things out of the irrigation, out of the drip system so we could move that out of the way, then we took the plastic out of the ground and rolled that up. So now it’s just dirt there is no plants and there’s no plastic,” explained Justema.
Garden and the compost pile now ready to wait out the winter.
“I think they are doing a really good job and hearing how much food they produce for the community,” said Natalie.
With yearly cost of four thousand dollars the 50,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables from this garden helped feed on average 12,500 people a month through the summer.
“Giving someone a cabbage is just one thing but if you can give someone a head of cabbage and then tell them different ways to cook it that their family will enjoy you’ve made steps toward a healthier community,” Sam Engel said.
On top of recipes and cooking the food bank’s garden provides lessons from the ground up.
“A lot of our volunteers out at the garden are clients themselves,” Sam Engel said. “They get food from us and they come out here and part of what they are learning is to put some of the practices from this garden into place in their own backyard or front porch.”
The impact this garden has on the community and the sustainability of it isn’t lost on these students.
“It’s just so much better, and tastier it’s better in your food, it’s better all around. Just knowing that’s it’s grown in Grants Pass is awesome too, and it’s not shipped from somewhere else,” Natalie said.
“It shows the community what you can do and it shows the kids what they can do,” said Engel.
“It’s really incredible and I look forward to helping them more,” Natalie said.
As the students learned today the hard work isn’t over. Once this green waste turns into compost it will be used to provide nutrients for the plants that will come out of this garden for years to come. During the winter months the garden doesn’t offset the access to food but 12,500 people still need food assistance, so donations are always welcome.