Grow your own veggies for health, wealth

By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer

Grow your own food. Save money.

It’s just that simple, say Snohomish County residents who have joined local community gardens.

Community gardens, sometimes called P-patches, have popped up like weeds throughout the county, including a newly created one at Hawthorne Elementary in north Everett.

And with spring here, now’s the time to dig in.

Several community gardens have plots or raised beds ready to go. Some gardens charge an annual rental fee. Others ask for donations and require gardeners to participate in occasional work parties.

Either way, buying into a plot is a sure way to see savings on your food bill.

“My wife and I took up the challenge of eating local, and we look back now and realize 80 percent of what we eat is from our own effort. That’s a large amount of food,” said Dean Smith. “And it’s worth several thousand dollars a year, I’m sure.”

Smith is program manager for Red Barn Community Farm in Everett’s Lowell neighborhood. The farm is in its second year of operation.

Red Barn has a total of three acres up for grabs.

Smith said plots have to be a decent size for people who want to grow a lot of food — enough to feed a family all year.

“In our climate you can grow fresh food year-round,” Smith said. “All sorts of things like leeks, broccoli, beets, carrots, collards and parsnips. My wife cooks with kale, and we eat it four or five times a week, and it’s packed with vitamins and nutrition.”

Plot sizes at Red Barn range from 20-by-20 feet for $50, to 40-by-160 feet for $300. The fee buys you 12 months of use. Sign up for a plot at www.transitionportgardner.org/garden or call Smith at 425-328-9979.

Smith said he’s definitely seeing more families growing their own food, partly for the nutritional value and partly for the added value to their bank account.

“The way the economy is these days, that’s, of course, important to them,” Smith said.

Another community garden with plots available is the Charles Street Community Garden in Everett’s Port Gardner neighborhood.

Lembi Kongas, who assigns plots at the garden, said she’s seen a number of new people sign up since last year, including families and senior couples.

“Savings are one of the benefits to growing your own food and being close to the soil is another,” Kongas said. “I have a modest income, and I will be eating my carrots and my beets and my radishes from my plot.”

Gardeners at the Charles Street patch sometimes have surplus lettuce, or seeds or other vegetables that are shared among the growers, another additional food bill savings, Kongas said.

At last count there were five plots open for rental at Charles Street Community Garden. The group asks a donation of $25 for a plot and also requires eight hours of cooperative work such as watering.

You can reach Kongas at 425-303-1370 or email reflexing1@yahoo.com.

Placing community gardens near or on the grounds of an elementary school makes sense, because the garden can provide an educational tool for students and families as well as help them save on their food bill.

Jamie Foote, a member of the Snohomish County Washington Conservation Corps, led a team to complete the corps’ yearly service project: construct a garden at Hawthorne Elementary School.

Eight 4-by-6 foot raised planting beds were built, along with a Pacific Northwest native plant area, with help from neighbors and students.

This community garden may prove to be a money-saver for families living near Hawthorne, where the percentage of students who meet the criteria for a free or reduced-price lunch is twice that of the Everett School District.

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; goffredo@heraldnet.com.

Find a garden

For the most current list of community gardens in Snohomish County go to growinggroceries.wsu.edu.