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Good Cheer moves ahead on ambitious garden project
BAYVIEW — Good Cheer Food Bank is going to the ground to enhance its food-distribution system.
The ground is its own front yard.
Since late last month, staff and volunteers have been working on Good Cheer’s ambitious new garden project in front of its headquarters along Bayview Road.
The highlight of the project will be 50 raised planting beds, each about 22 feet long by 3½ feet wide. There will also be landscaping, composting stations and five donated fruit trees, said Cary Peterson, Good Cheer garden coordinator.
Fencing and an irrigation system will be installed in March, she said.
“We’ll eat the food we grow nearby,” Peterson said of the concept. “Everybody’s really jazzed about reestablishing that connection.”
“We anticipate the first plant will go into the ground the third week of March,” she added.
They’ll start off with early-season vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, leeks and peas, then follow with carrots, beets, more lettuce, squash, chard, kale and other edibles.
Because the food bank already gets “tons” of donated apples from the community, the fruit trees will be two pear and three plum, Peterson said.
Everything grown in the garden will go to the food bank, she said.
“It’s a start-up,” Peterson said. “We expect the yield to increase over the years as the soil becomes more and more fertilized.”
She said a huge boost to the effort was the donation of “hundreds and hundreds” of seed packages from the Ed Hume Seed Company of Puyallup.
Some of the seeds will go into the ground; others will be available to members of the community who want to “grow a row for Good Cheer,” Peterson said.
Work started on the garden in earnest on Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 19, when 30 volunteers responded to President-elect Obama’s call for a national day of service.
They spread manure, organized irrigation tubing, cleaned up and hauled away debris, dug up rocks and blackberry roots and took down willow trees that were shading the future garden.
“Everybody’s very excited about it,” Peterson said. “Everybody’s been very generous with their time and donations.”
This past week, Master Gardeners volunteers staked out the new growing beds. Today, third-grade children and their parents from the Whidbey Island Waldorf School in Clinton will start forming the raised beds.
They’ll also plant the first fruit tree. Four of the five new trees already have been donated, Peterson said.
Additional work parties will be announced soon to finish the beds, and to begin work on the composting stations, which will recycle food waste from the food bank, she said.
Volunteers are the bedrock of the Good Cheer effort, Peterson said.
“When I saw Angus on that tractor, I said that’s what it’s all about,” she said. She was referring to Angus Buchanan, who lives nearby. Last week, he volunteered to smooth the soil for the beds.
“Because she asked me to,” Buchanan said as he turned the tractor around for another pass.
Good Cheer, the only food bank on South Whidbey, serves a population of nearly 15,000.
Besides the food bank, it operates an item-receiving-and-distribution workshop, two general thrift stores and a clothing boutique thrift store.
The nonprofit charity is run by a staff of 14 and nearly 300 volunteers. It is overseen by a 15-member elected board of directors who hold office for three years.
In 2008, the food bank assisted more than 4,000 people, an increase of about 1,200 from the year before. Nearly 450 families were assisted in December alone.
Peterson said regularly scheduled work parties will be established as the growing season draws near.
“When it’s finished, we’re going to have a big party,” she said.
To volunteer, or to get on the e-mail list, call her at 221-6046 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep up to date online about the garden project, click here.