The Grange Garden|
By unknown writer
A GARDEN OF MEMORIES. What’s in a picture? You look at the community garden pictured above (unavailable). Some of the rows may be crooked, but you think it’s great that people can produce their own food on these plots. You admire the attractive sign done by Battle Ground’s "Grandma Moses", Mrs. W.T. Elmer, of the Brookside Apartments.
But to Mrs. Alan (Kitty) Ham it means a lot more. Looking at this picture brings back lots of memories of this first year for the Grange garden. Anyone who knows Kitty knows that she is a hard worker, a great gardener, and she and her husband share a deep concern for the elderly and the underprivileged. The Hams established the Senior Citizen Sharecropper gardens on their Lewis River farm between Battle Ground and LaCenter a few years ago, providing the land and gardening help to senior citizens. When they moved to Vancouver, Mrs. Ham spent months trying to find land to carry on the program there, finally getting some school land for that purpose. The Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department has taken over the project and it helped win national honors for the city.
Kitty then devoted much effort last summer to the Grange garden at the Washington Grange in the Vancouver area. This is a pilot project to be expanded statewide if it is successful here. In Kitty’s own words here is the story of last summer’s grange garden--"This was five acres of the best rocky fertile soil I have ever seen. Those Grangers went to work like only Grangers could. Some of them are at an age where others would be sitting in rocking chairs. They cleared off those big rocks and boulders and left us with land that holds moisture and will grow almost everything. Al Germann worked the ground and spread liquid fertilizer and by late spring the ground was ready to plant. I was called to assign garden plots as I had been gathering the names of people to let* know the time to be at the Grange that Thursday morning for planting.
Like the Loaves and Fishes
"We still had some seed left from the farm and on testing we found the germination to be even better than it was guaranteed on the package. There was seed left from the donated seed. I had raised some seed and when it was put all together it was almost like the loaves and the fishes. As the story is told from the Bible, the amount seemed to grow as we went along.
"For the young people there was free land, water, plants and seed. The best part of that first planting were the young people who came up to us and said. ‘We never had anything done for us like this before.'
There were about a dozen children (most of them in diapers) on a blanket, our two year old grandson in the midst of them, and a couple of ten or eleven year olds herding the bunch as those young people went to work.
"As the season progressed Larry Swearington Sr. of Larry's Nursery gave plants and bags of onions which were divided between the Grange gardens and the City gardens. Then came good old Ag-Co with potato seed. This seed had sprouted too far to be sold, but it did wonders for us.
Food Given To Needy
"In went the seed for fall gardens in the nursery plots so that those people could put in a fall crop when the spring crop was over. We thinned these transplants out so there was always food from the nursery to be given to the needy people, mostly the elderly. Part of it went into the city hot lunch program and Some of it was given back to the Senior Citizens Sharecropper Program in Vancouver to he sold to get needed supplies for their city garden. There were many senior citizens who came to the grange garden as well as a Vietnamese family composed of eleven people. What an experience trying to teach them to plant a garden when they had never planted before. They knew no English, so that left us using our hands, eyes, and feet to communicate.
"About this time I heard about 100 teenage handicapped kids, and was told that sometimes the older boys did not get seconds when the food ran out for that meal. I went to see if we could put a salad garden next to the kitchen. I had forgotten that these boys were at the age when they had bottomless pits for stomachs. They were almost impossible to fill up. They did learn to transplant all kinds of plants -- beans, beets, and corn etc.
"They went to a Kiwanis camp at Washougal and when they came back the potatoes and onions were ready to plant. So out came a busload of those kids to the Washington Grange and with the teaching help of some low-income teenagers, we got the crop in. Have you ever seen row of potatoes planted by kids and then watchcd them p1ay "Follow the Leader" as they marched to pat the soil down. Fun! Fun! Fun! -
"It was a summer I'll never forget. It proved to me that the city and the country can all work together, old and young, handicapped and otherwise. We are proud of our dear old black lady, Luella Thompson, who started with us in the Sharecroppers Garden in 1971. She had never planted a garden before and was embarrassed as we were doing much of her work. This year she had the largest radishes in the Sharecropper's Garden and shared with every one and she also had the highest pole beans grown this year. One of the thrills the summer was having the Anderson quintuplets come visit their grandparents’ garden plot.
"I would like to see to see the gardens expanded next year to include the welfare mothers and their children, specially ages 8 to 14. This would give the children something to do and they could see the end product of their work and hopefully have something to share. Right now I am trying to figure how to get more done next year with less work. There must be some way. Oh well, I have all winter to figure that one out."