Community Gardens Gain Popularity in Hard Times
By Shirlee Evans, Post Correspondent, November 12, 1975
You may be able to pluck the lady up and move her from the farm, but no one has ever been able to pluck the farm from the lady. The Lady is Mrs. Alan Ham known as Kitty.
KITTY HAM is a woman who gets things done. She has been instrumental in getting cooperative gardens started throughout Clark County. She says joining a cooperative garden can really shave the bucks off a grocery bill.
-- POST photo by Shirlee Evans
She said they laughed when she carted her tractor, trailer and tools along as she and her husband moved from their farm, north of Battle Ground, to a new home in a prestigious Hazel Dell subdivision. But if people laughed at first, most have now stopped.
The Hams were instrumental in starting the community gardens around area, including the Senior Citizen's Sharecroppers at Marshall Center in Vancouver, and the one at the Washington Grange Hall Ward road northeast of Orchards.
It is here that Kitty's farm know-how and implements have proved useful.
"The Grange Gardens are a pilot project," Kitty said, they will be expanded statewide if they prove successful here."
The five acres at the Grange were covered with rocks and boulders. Some who saw it had little faith anyone would be able to make anything grow, let alone find people who. would want to tackle the "rock pile."
Kitty said the grangers went to work, "like only grangers could." Some of them were at that mystical rocking chair age. They cleared off those big rocks," Kitty stated, "leaving us with land that holds moisture and will grow almost anything."
Plants raised behind the Ham's new house in Hazel-Dell and seed left over from their farming days were donated to the garden project. Hours and hours of organizing and actual work were also donated. Kitty proudly declares, "And now I am a senior citizen too. I've been looking forward to this for years!"
She said the seed, when all put together, "was almost like the loaves and fishes story in the Bible. The amount seemed to grow. I was forever shuffling plants and seed from our home to the (Marshall Center) Sharecroppers Garden to the Grange Gardens and back to the City Gardens."
For those at the Grange Gardens there was free land, water, plants and seed. (The Marshall Center plots were not as large and cost $2.50 to $10 each.) Many stated it was the first time they had ever done anything like that.
Larry's Greenhouse & Nursery of Vancouver gave plants and bags of onions to the projects and AG-Co Inc., of Battle Ground came up with donated seed, besides others who donated plants. Nursery plots were started at the grange site for fall gardens when the spring crop was finished.
They thinned out the nursery plots to give food to the needy, and the senior citizens' hot lunch program in Vancouver.
The young, old, a Vietnamese family of eleven, and the handicapped from Ahner Hall of Vancouver all came to work their garden plots at thc grange together.
Kitty patiently taught those who knew nothing of the magic combination of soil, water and plants.
Those from Ahner Hall were intrigued by the whole experience, so Kitty went to their main facility, on Fruit Valley Road, and helped them plant a salad garden.
Myrtle Freidel, business manager for Ahner Hall (a residence for the mentally and physically handicapped) said, "They went out there and weeded and watered and really enjoyed watching things grow. They were just thrilled by it all."
Kitty hopes to locate welfare families to get them into a garden project. She feels the younger children, especially, want to learn to work."
I would like to get a 4-H leader out there next year to form a garden club for these kids," she said. They could show their produce at the fairs, too. They would love it."
This year Kitty has used her station wagon to haul her riding garden tractor and other implements around. The parks and recreation people are trying to help her find a trailer to use next year.
Besides the nursery plots and a strip "farmed" by the handicapped of Ahner Hall, there were 36 families who raised gardens at Washington Grange on Ward Road this past year. Next year Kitty foresees bigger and better things.
She said, "Right now I'm trying to figure out how I can get more done with less work. There must be some way. Oh, well, I have a winter to figure out that one."
If the past proves anything at all about Kitty Ham, it proves she will be doing her all. Alan Ham seems to have a wife who has never learned the word "leisure." And that's a tough act to follow -- for anyone.