By DAN TOLVA, Columbian Staff Writer
When we were still on the farm, we offered free plowed, fertilized and watered garden plots for the Seniors -- and as much as they wanted. A busload of Seniors were brought out from the city. The river bottom land we had would raise anything.
George Hutton and Kitty Ham tend community garden.|
Fresh vegetables in plentiful amounts are being harvested in that senior citizens garden next to Marshall Community Center.
Even more bountiful than this yearís crop is the amount of companionship charity and self-reliance being inspired by the one-acre plot.
Its a community garden where individuals plant their own crop, harvest what they need and give the rest to charitable organizations. Kitty Ham, the projectís founder, reported her only problem is finding enough volunteers to distribute the vegetables.
As well as providing fresh vegetables to senior citizens, the garden gives activity and companionship to the 100 or so members who did the initial planting, Mrs. Ham said. And itís all done without governmental help,
"We donít want to burden the taxpayer. Weíre trying to pay out own way," said Mrs. Ham, who with her husband Alan, operates a farm between Battle Ground and La Center.
Scores of volunteers made the plot possible. The Vancouver School District donated the land; Les Sorenson an irrigation engineer, installed the watering system, and George Hutton ("He seems to know everybody.") scoured the area for participants, Mrs. Ham said.
County Extension Agent Paul Wesseler gave advice. And Bill Brown, a Fruit Valley farmer donated another three-quarter-acre site now used to grow corn.
The corn from that plot will be sold to provide money for next yearís garden. Mrs. Ham said. The Marshall Center site is already producing huge amounts of "just about anything you could want,íí she added.
Swedish beans, lettuce. tomatoes, corn, squash, pumpkins, carrots, beets, turnips, broccoli, cucumbers and cauliflower are just some of the vegetables being tended.
Food goes to FISH (a nonprofit organization which provides emergency food and clothing) and to the senior citizens lunch program at First Christian Church. Free vegetables are also delivered to elderly "shut-ins."
Vancouver police, according to Mrs. Ham, keep a sharp eye on the garden to prevent vandalism. They also are to help distribute this yearís crop.
For the last three years, the Ham farm has hosted its own community garden, tended by the countyís elderly. Mrs. Ham moved into the city after noticing so many vacant lots "growing nothing but weeds."
At first, she reported, the school district was reluctant to donate the site, because it was felt the soil there was too poor.
But a liberal dose of manure, plus careful weeding and insect control, have created an extremely healthy garden. Rows of vegetables, divided by neatly weeded spaces stand like an oasis among the brown weeds.
Mrs. Ham would like to see the project sprout to all sections of the county, with each community tending its own patch.
"Iíll be around to help things get started," she promised but after that Iíll need some time to myself. This project. is much bigger than I thought. it would be."
(This article is reproduced with the generous permission of The Columbian.)