Free Garden: Just Add Water!

Nourishing neighbors
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Last year over one-third of students in Tualatin elementary schools qualified for free and reduced price lunches. Nearly 15% of residents in Tualatin live below the poverty level. The I-5 corridor in Tualatin is a designated Oregon Poverty Hotspot with the 7th highest poverty rate among all Oregon hotspots, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services. Your community needs your help.

If you are passionate about gardening or just getting started, this is an opportunity to help yourself and your community. Neighbors Nourishing Communities (NNC) is a Tualatin non-profit organization entering its 4th growing season, and they are always looking for more gardeners. In exchange for providing gardeners with all the plants and seeds needed for a garden, NNC asks that gardeners commit to donating 20% of produce to families in need. Last year NNC gardeners donated over 2,000 pounds of produce.

Many gardeners pick their donation produce on Sunday and drop it by an NNC collection site. NNC makes deliveries to the Tualatin Food Pantry, where the produce is quickly distributed to those in need. Gardeners harvest the rest of the week for their own family. It’s that simple. Any size of garden works, whether it’s a single container or a full backyard garden.

Gardening is a relaxing hobby with many benefits. It is a great way to spend time with kids and teach them where food comes from. The nutritional value of produce is highest when freshly harvested and decreases daily afterwards. Growing an organic garden provides easy and inexpensive access to produce that is nutritionally at its peak. NNC also makes gardening fun by hosting get-togethers and sharing gardening tips.

Many people are surprised to learn how many Tualatin families are struggling to keep nutritious food on their table. Housing costs have skyrocketed, leaving even more families in need. Fresh produce is more costly than less-nutritional food, and can be unobtainable for many families. This is an opportunity to help combat a growing need.

NNC will be handing out seeds (from beans to zucchini), onion starts, and seed potatoes on March 18. The organization has partnered with MITCH Charter School where students are growing many varieties of tomato and pepper starts as a school project. These garden plant starts will be handed out to NNC gardeners on Sunday, May 7th. For more information about joining and getting your garden started, please contact Chad Darby at (503) 523-7142 / neighborsnc@ or visit

Families struggling to make ends meet can also contact Neighbors Nourishing Communities for gardening assistance. The organization supports families in need by providing free community gardening beds and tools, along with plants and seeds.

Chad DarbyChad Darby, founder of NNC, has been a resident of Tualatin for 14 years with his wife and two daughters. NNC was founded in the belief that a dedicated group of neighbors can ensure that everyone has access to nutritious food.