Gardens at Kitsap Harvest
Written by Katie Allen, Grow A Row Coordinator VISTA
Kitsap Harvest wanted to create a sustainable and consistent amount of produce to serve their clients during the colder months. Most produce that they do receive during that time is from grocery recovery and the food bank and sometimes can be less than fresh, usually bagged, and with little variety. They wanted to be sure that throughout the year the people they served were getting a balanced and nutrient-dense diet and thought that one way to achieve that goal could be to grow their own intentional gardens. They could tailor the produce they grow to what their clients actually want to eat and have it maintained by volunteers. There would also be an educational aspect for the volunteers participating as well as people in the area who wanted to educate themselves on best gardening practices.
Kitsap Harvest, through the Grow-A-Row program, facilitated 2 gardens and supported an already established community garden by supplying starts that were donated by individuals and Kitsap Conservation Districts G.R.A.C.E. Garden Project. They also hosted planting parties to introduce people to the garden, weekly volunteer days, and set up Garden Leads who would work with volunteers and report to the Grow-A-Row Committee meetings with garden updates and needs every other week.
However, they found that managing the gardens was a bigger project than expected and the person in charge of them need to be able to make the gardens the thing they were focused on. It was difficult to find consistent volunteers to participate and starts weren’t scheduled well and would come when they were ready rather than when they were needed. If it was done over, there would need to be prep time in the fall and winter to plan a planting guide, someone specifically in charge of managing the project, organizing how volunteers are managed, and Garden Leads who are able to participate in most volunteer activities and committee meetings, more capacity for volunteer outreach and retention, and a property use agreement for Kitsap Harvest and the garden owner to set up guidelines for things like deciding who’s providing what resources.