Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated by a day of service for many on South Whidbey.
More than 30 people gathered at the Good Cheer Food Bank & Thrift Stores Garden in Bayview to help turn over crops and begin the garden’s sixth growing season.
For Garden Manager Camille Green, the turnout was amazing and beyond anything she expected.
“The amount we got done is more than anything I could have done on my own,” she said. “It’s a really great way to kick off the season.”
This is Green’s first year as garden manager, after spending more than a year as a gardening apprentice at Good Cheer. She said she was excited to embark on her new relationship with the garden and with the community.
So far, she was impressed with what both have been able to offer. People helped with everything from turning the 50 garden beds, cleaning tools and organizing the sheds to getting ready for the new season.
Langley resident John Ficalora helped turn over crops during the work party. He volunteered in order to help people in the community and spend some time outdoors.
The work and meeting new people have helped him, and the garden, turn over a new leaf for the new year, he said. But more than anything, he came out because he wanted to help.
“It’s great bouncing energy off of each other and meeting new people,” Ficalora said. “It’s a wonderful place and I’m happy to volunteer here.”
Cary Peterson, coordinator of the Fresh Food on the Table program at Good Cheer, said the day reminded her of the first work party at the garden six years ago. It was a similarly beautiful, spring-like day when the community showed up to help.
Three members from Clinton’s American Heritage Girls group — Kaitlyn Lambeth, 13, Kyli DeMers, 14 and Rosa Williams, 13 — also attended the event with their families. Troop leader Amber Lambeth saw the posting online and encouraged the girls to attend to further their service hours for the group.
They helped spread compost across the beds and found a few surprises hidden within the leaves, including a centipede and a long, rotund worm.
“This is a good opportunity to help serve people in need,” Amber Lambeth said.
With so many different farming partners in the community, Green hopes to diversify from the crops their partners already grow.
“We can be more intentional … with what grows well here,” she said. “We try and do a lot in a small space, which is the ultimate goal.”
The garden is coming off one of its most successful years in 2013, producing 7,000 pounds of produce — about 2,000 pounds more than a typical season.
“We had an unbelievable summer,” Green said.
Green said she was grateful for being in a community with so many people who help.
“I’m overwhelmed in the best possible way,” she said.
One 8-year-old volunteer, Roslyn Donier, ended the day by giving Green a big hug around her legs and said, “Thank you for teaching us to garden.”
Moments like that are one of the most rewarding parts of her work, Green said.