It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that heroes are all around us in our community, going out of their way to help others every day. The skill that some of those heroes have is a green thumb, cultivated from many trials and errors. And they wear their cape in the front and call it a gardening apron! What do these hero gardeners do for our community? They provide thousands of pounds of fresh local organic produce for families in our community that are struggling with food insecurity, all grown in their own gardens.
Neighbors Nourishing Communities (NNC) is a local Tualatin non-profit that provides free plants, seeds, and education to gardeners that commit to donating 20% of what they grow to help local families in need. And many of our gardening neighbors donate much more. As we head into our 9th year this year, we wanted to recognize some of our award winners (superheroes) from our community last year. These are gardeners that donated the most within one of four categories: a new member, a veteran member, a business, and an institutional partner.
Golden Trowel Winner: Hannah Collinsworth
Hannah was a new member last year. She began gardening in 2017 with a few simple plants. She and her husband have turned their yard into an amazing garden with vegetable, herb, and flower beds. Like many of us, Hannah grew up seeing her mother garden and now she has become an active gardener herself. I asked her why she decided to garden with NNC and she said, “When I learned about NNC I loved the practicality of it…a simple concept that fulfills an extremely important need.” We are so happy to have Hannah helping address hunger in our community and we look forward to seeing her at some of our group events this year.
Rusty Trowel Winner: Jo Hibbitts
Jo is a veteran gardener with NNC and wins the Rusty Trowel award year after year. (Careful Jo, Hannah’s coming for it!) From her garden she donates 400 lbs or more of produce every year, which she takes to the Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry. Jo has been with NNC since almost day one, so in that time she’s donated thousands of pounds of produce. Last year Jo felt that visitors to the Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry could be cheered up with bouquets of flowers in addition to produce. Flower arrangements are not the sort of thing you can afford when you are struggling to get food so this was a fantastic idea. Jo has an amazing cut flower garden and we continually learn new gardening knowledge from her.
Sodbuster Award: Lynn Bertelsen and Tualatin Park Veterinary Clinic
When NNC was first getting started we needed so much help. Lynn was one of the first people to reach out to me in Tualatin and ask me how he could help. Ultimately he decided to take his business lawn, located near Tualatin Community Park, and turn it into a garden. NNC helped him build raised garden beds and fill them with soil. Since that time, Lynn and the staff at Tualatin Park Veterinary Clinic (TPVC) have donated almost 800 lbs of produce each year, sometimes more. Many people comment that they don’t realize TPVC even has a garden there, which a testament to how much you can produce in a small yard. The staff at TPVC have really been supportive of the garden and have taken things a step farther. The clinic also started several years ago with collecting donated pet supplies to take to the Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry so that pet owners could also feed their pets. This is another fantastic idea and I’m so thankful we have such generous people in our community.
Hoe Lotta Help Award: Hilltop Community Garden
Hilltop Community Garden is located at Hilltop Community Church in Tualatin. This is one of the few community gardening spots in Tualatin and for a small fee to cover maintenance, a raised bed can be obtained. You do not need to be a church member. In addition to providing gardening space for community members, the garden also has some areas where produce is grown simply for donation. Hilltop regularly donates 2,500 lbs or more of produce each year to the Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry, about a third of which is grown from plants and seeds that NNC provides. We are all very lucky to have institutions like this in Tualatin, not only because of their donation, but also because of the community connections that they create among gardeners and volunteers. More of this please! Other institutions that have won this award in the past include Resurrection Catholic Church and Bridgeport Elementary School Community Garden. All three are NNC gardening neighbors and significant donors of produce to the Pantry.
You can be a gardening superhero too!
If you are interested in joining with NNC this year, you don’t need special skills and a large garden space. We’ve had members that have had only a few pots on a deck. Our unofficial mantra is, “If you only donate one vegetable, that’s one vegetable somebody wouldn’t otherwise have had.” It all counts. If you are a business that is interested in setting aside part of your property for gardening, I’m sure your employees would enjoy it and we’d be happy to help you get started. Please call Chad Darby at 503-523-7142. If you are an individual or family that would like to garden this year with NNC, our free plant and seed handout will be the first weekend in May. Please register as soon as possible so we have some sense of how many plant starts to have on hand. You can register at www.neighborsnc.org. Once you register we will provide you the details on time and location.