MIDDLETON, Idaho — There are many community gardens throughout the Treasure Valley. People with a plot of land of their own can grow, harvest, and in some cases, sell the food they grow.
In Middleton, there's a community garden that grows and donates tons of fresh produce to area food banks and Idahoans in need, thanks to a network of volunteers and supporters.
It's called the Canyon Springs Garden Outreach. Director Suzanne Ubry said that the garden is more than just a plot of ground for growing vegetables.
"Yes, well we are actually a garden that grows food for the local foodbanks, as well as a teaching garden, so we teach through Canyon County Extension youth programs," said Ubry. "Also, we have a gardener's co-op, where we bring in communities to basically garden together, to learn about growing produce, flowers and vegetables, and then they get to take some of the produce home, so we're kind of multi-faceted."
Canyon Springs Garden Outreach has its roots in a partnership with Trinity Community Gardens but has since sprouted into a thriving community garden of its own.
This time of year, garlic is ready for harvest. Ubry said that the brown leaves along with the plant beginning to wilt, is a key sign. "So, I can actually pull something for you right now because it's ready to harvest. Let's take a look. Here we go. That's a nice big head."
Mild weather extended the growing season for snap peas, and led to a very successful crop of cabbages, kohlrabi, spinach and swish chard - making the entire garden resemble the produce section of a supermarket. Produce so fresh, Duthie and Ubry had to take a bite. "They're sweet. They're really good."
Sunflowers, herbs and a huge crop of tomatoes were filling the garden rows. "We're probably growing at least 50 different varieties," said Ubry. "We call this our tomato alley, and then we have tomatoes as well growing down the center of our garden down that way as well. As well as our youth garden, we like our tomatoes."
Canyon Springs wouldn't be successful without a small army of volunteers, who help maintain the garden from spring planting to summer and fall harvesting.
"We have volunteers all the way from Star to Nampa to Middleton, and basically it could be master gardeners to someone who just wants to garden communally. So, they can work with us and be here locally."
There are other rewards, too, besides just the produce. "They have lots of conversation and fun and laughs, but at the same time, that feeling that we know what we are doing is helping the community and I think that makes a huge difference," Ubry said. "Accomplishing something good and helping other people at the same time."
Growing the food is one thing. Getting it to those who need it requires some extra effort.
Ubry explained the process and challenges of distributing the produce. "In fact, that's our biggest challenge, delivery. So, what we did is we modeled after another community garden here in Treasure Valley, and we have food banks that come here and pick up locally, and we also go out and deliver."
"We're able to do that more easily now because we have a place to store our produce so that food banks can come in and pick up, or we have plans to hold it so we can take it to the food bank. So, you don't have to worry about everything being picked that day, getting to those who will consume it. Exactly."
Canyon County Master Gardeners offer education, volunteers, and financial support. "As Canyon County master gardeners, we have volunteers that come and work in the garden here...we also provide adult and youth education," said Ubry. "To be a partner with the community garden really helps us to meet the people and the needs that are here in the community."
The garden isn't only growing produce but growing young gardeners. The garden works very closely with the Canyon County Junior Master Gardeners, a program of classes that teach kids all about nature, growing food and just taking care of the soil and plants and being outside.
Canyon Springs Garden's motto: connect, grow, community. Growing good things to eat and helping the community at the same time.
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