Othello Community Garden: A labor of love

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Courtesy photo The Othello Community Garden offers an opportunity for locals to take part in a project that is for the community and by the community.

OTHELLO — What do a community garden and a food bank have in common? They both are helping to feed those in need. In Othello, extra produce from the community garden gets donated to the food bank.

The Othello Community Garden was started approximately six years ago. Located on the east side of the parking lot of the Othello Church of the Nazarene, 835 S 10th Ave. and next to the McFarland Middle School football scoreboard, the garden has 22 plots that consist of two raised beds. Each plot is automatically watered with a drip irrigation system.

Tracy Field has been the garden’s trustee since it started.

“They got me on board to help with some of the manual labor,” said Field. “I stayed on to take care of the garden every year. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know about it.”

The cost to rent a plot is $30 a year.

“It is on the Nazarene Church grounds,” Field said. “They only ask me to charge enough to pay for the water. That makes it affordable for people to come in.”

Since the beds are automatically watered, all that is required is for renters to plant, weed and harvest their plots.

“We do ask that they help keep the rows clean in between the boxes and help pick up trash,” said Field. “They can grow whatever they want. All I ask is that they be respectful of their neighbor and don’t plant something tall that would shade their neighbors. You can grow just about everything there. I personally have two plots of raspberries. I also have two plots of strawberries that I inherited from other people who quit the garden. No illegal crops are allowed in there. I do have a list of rules. When someone rents a plot, I meet them at the garden and go over the rules.”

There are a few different options available to help control the weed population. Ground covering and chemicals are two of them.

“Mulch is okay,” Field said. “One lady puts plastic down to keep weeds down. She tries to do more organic gardening. We do allow chemicals. People should be respectful of people trying to do it organically.”

One of the top questions that people ask about the community garden is if they can grow food for themselves.

“That is perfectly fine,” Field said. “I ask that it doesn’t go to waste.”

That is where the food bank comes in. If someone has excess produce they don’t know what to do with, Field asks that they donate it to the food bank.

“If someone neglects a plot, it generally goes to the food bank,” said Field. “Last year, I planted pretty much all of it by myself. I got the plants from the FFA. It is too much work to do this year.”

For every pound of food donated, the food bank receives $1.75 per pound towards the amount of money the state requires food banks to have donated to them. Without donations of food, money and volunteer hours, the food bank does not receive its funding.

“People assume we get a lot of money from the government, but we don’t,” said Sharon Mobley, Othello Food Bank manager. “The only money we get is from Washington state. We rely so much on donations.”

Each week, the food bank feeds 125 to 130 people. Due to the high demand, they have recently started opening a third day each week. In addition, they serve over 100 school-age children through the backpack program and through a kids club during the summer. There is also a senior program that provides food to 80 seniors. This program has a waiting list.

The produce donated from the Othello Community Garden helps to meet the demand for food from the different food bank programs. Currently there are approximately 15 plots still available at the community garden. To learn more about the Othello Community Garden or to get a plot, call Field at 509-989-3988.

Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at rpinkerton@suntribunenews.com.

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