Lowell farm, volunteers grow produce for Everett food bank

EVERETT — Doris Olivers, a longtime social activist, volunteers as an advocate for growing one’s own groceries.

A retired educator, Olivers, 65, of Everett, is one of the main gardeners at the Red Barn Community Farm south of the Lowell neighborhood.

Last year, she delivered more than 1,200 pounds of fresh produce to the Volunteers of America food bank in Everett and in March she donated another 30 pounds of organic cabbage. Last month, she volunteered 75 hours at the community farm, located in the fertile Snohomish River valley off Lowell-Larimer Road.

“More than much of my other volunteer work, I know the results of what I do here at the garden,” Olivers said. “I can hold the vegetables in my arms.”

A few years ago, during the height of the economic recession, the Everett food bank experienced a drop in donations, Olivers said.

“Especially needed was fresh produce,” she said.

So the city of Everett, the Lowell neighborhood, Volunteers of America, Hands of Hope, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, the WSU Extension and a group called Transition Port Gardner joined forces three years ago to offer a place for people to grow food. People who can afford it pay a garden plot fee, food bank clients get a reduced rental rate and many of the people who work at the garden do it just to benefit others. Everett United Church of Christ, for example, raises food for its weekly meals for homeless people.

Farm manager Forrest Callaghan, a student at Northwest Indian College’s Tulalip campus, said the fees help pay for water and farm equipment. Eric Adams, whose day job is with Community Transit, helps with public relations for the farm. The city owns more than 30 acres at the farm, nearly 10 of which are used for the community gardens, Adams said.

Currently, a big swath of the garden is growing carrots and beans for the food bank. Olivers also has cherry tomatoes growing for the food bank. The little tomatoes make a good donation.

“People just pop them in their mouths,” she said. “No fixing. Just eating.”

At her condominium, Olivers starts seeds and gets them going on her sunny deck and in her windows. On her quarter-acre plot at the farm, she transplants her starts. Along with tomatoes, she grows such crops as kale and chard, cauliflower and broccoli and oats and barley. What she doesn’t donate, she takes home or shares with her family.

Olivers also helps teach people how to grow vegetable gardens.

“We live in a great climate and we should be able to grow gardens all year round,” Olivers said. “We want people to realize they have an option for food out here at Red Barn. We can grow our own and grow for others. And it’s beautiful here, with views of the mountains and glimpses of wildlife.”

The goal of the farm is a good one, she said.

“It’s about reclaiming farmland for people, and it’s about service to others,” Olivers said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Help in the garden

Red Barn Community Farm needs more volunteers to grow food for the Volunteers of America food banks. For information about volunteering at Saturday work parties, donating farm equipment, renting a garden plot or receiving some gardening education, call farm manager Forrest Callaghan at 425-772-5008 or go to redbarncommunityfarm.org.

The community garden also is on the June 29 home and garden tour sponsored by the Lowell neighborhood’s 150th anniversary committee. For more information about Lowell anniversary events, call Gail Chism at 425-258-9381.

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