Katie is an AmeriCorps Harvest VISTA member coordinating Kitsap Harvest’s Grow-a-Row program as the Grow-a-Row Coordinator VISTA. Kitsap Harvest (KH) is based in Bremerton but serves the whole Kitsap County area in Washington. KH has an established gleaning program that is very fruit heavy and would like to expand and increase vegetable donations by recruiting members of the community to grow in their home gardens, community gardens, and local farms. Neighborhoods will have weekly donation stations available to donate their produce which gets sorted at the distribution warehouse then sent out to people and organizations feeding those in need.
In an effort to have consistent produce to deliver in the slower growing seasons, Kitsap Harvest facilitates 3 community gardens to harvest food from and create an opportunity for volunteers who would like to garden but don’t have the space at home. Brownsville is an unincorporated community in Kitsap County- just north of Bremerton and east of Silverdale. Mostly residential, it’s a beautiful area to drive through full of trees, pretty houses, scenic views of Mt. Rainier, and is host to a small harbor and marina in the Puget Sound. It’s also home to Brownsville United Methodist Church (BUMC), where one of the community gardens Kitsap Harvest facilitates is located. Pre-covid, the garden had operated as a children’s garden to give kids the opportunity to learn about growing food and get their hands dirty. Last year, Kitsap Harvest’s board president had been doing some gardening there, and when Harvest VISTA member Katie was looking for sites to do some intentional growing, he suggested she reach out to them. BUMC was very enthusiastic about working with Kitsap Harvest’s Grow-A-Row program which encourages people to grow their own food and donate the excess to help feed community members who don’t have easy access to fresh veggies. A group of volunteers started planting and maintaining the garden at the beginning of June, and are currently growing things like lettuce, squash, tomatoes, corn and more.
The other 2 gardens are Howe Farm, a community garden out of Port Orchard that works with detention youths who have community service requirements. Working in the garden is a way for them to learn about their food and gaining the knowledge of gardening that they can take with them forever. Startnow Gardens is hosted at a community members impressive garden out of her home in the middle of downtown Bremerton. Each garden has a Garden Lead, a volunteer who’s the point of contact for the property owner of the garden, delegates tasks to other volunteers and participates in the Grow-A-Row Committee Meetings to update committee members of how the gardens are doing and where they need support.
A current project for each garden is to create a garden map and planting calendar. The garden map will show the growing space available at each location, row feet of beds, most sunlit areas, where water is located, etc. The planting/harvesting calendar will help track when produce gets planted, when it will be harvested, and when there will need to be starts and seeds to replace what’s being taken out. Currently, Kitsap Harvest gets some of their starts from public donations, but most come from Kitsap Conservation Districts G.R.A.C.E. Garden Project, a community garden that educates and grows produce that is donated to food banks, and donates starts to groups like Kitsap Harvest. Working together with the community gardens, the volunteers and great organizations like G.R.A.C.E. Garden Project, Kitsap County is growing closer and feeling more like a community that cares about the people in it.