Gardening in an urban environment has often presented a challenge. Particularly in dense environments, there simply isn’t enough space. Community Gardens have developed in the Springfield /Eugene area to address that need. The need is particularly acute for immigrant families, many of whom have a long history and cultural tradition of growing their own food. Marissa Zarate, the Executive Director of Huerto de la Familia, described how her organization is answering that need for immigrant families, particularly Latino families.
The organization began with one garden in the Whitaker neighborhood of Eugene, and has now expanded to seven locations, including one in Springfield at Gamebird Park in conjunction with Willamalane Park and Recreation District. The Gardens are closed between December and April, but the organization now offers, in addition to plots to families, business programming and education, leadership training, food preservation and networking opportunities.
The program complements the City of Eugene Community Garden program, which sponsors several gardens in the City. Ms. Zarate said that the $1=00 fee for the Eugene Gardens is a challenge particularly for immigrant families. Springfield does not have a city-sponsored garden program, although Ms. Zarate she does understand a community group is planning to open a garden near the Willamalane Splash! Facility. Huerto de la Familia is now exploring a potential garden in Cottage Grove.
Each garden offers several 15×15 plots. The gardens are generally fenced and have a locked tool shed for tools that may be used by all the gardeners. Water is available. Territorial Seeds donates large amounts of seed for the gardeners and Dow to Earth donates fertilizer. Several farms in the area also donate starts for use in the garden.
The organization is always on the lookout for additional spaces to locate a garden, because there are wait lists for each of the existing gardens. They prefer to work with local agencies, because those agencies generally have the facilities and equipment to supply water and limited maintenance of the common areas of the gardens.
Perhaps lesser know is the breadth of the organization’s offerings beyond garden plots. They offer a wide range of training to help gardeners transition into additional opportunities, things as far ranging as food businesses and photography and including training and support to create and open businesses. They are now expanding to create a wellness center. Although the focus is on Spanish speaking gardeners, they have participants from all over the world