Growing Food and Community

Albina Cooperative Garden

Eliot is home to two cooperative gardens offering opportunities to learn how to grow amazing produce, meet wonderful neighbors, reap the benefits of the harvest, as well as give back to your neighbors in need. Unlike community gardens, where everyone has separate plots which are rented for a fee and planted, tended and harvested by the individual gardener, in cooperative gardens members make decisions, work, plant and harvest together.

Both Albina Cooperative Garden and Green Table Cooperative Farm are non-profits under the umbrella of OSALT, Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust, providing insurance, agricultural water rates and the non-profit status so they can take donations and use them for necessary supplies.  Any harvested produce that is not taken by the members is given to Urban Gleaners to distribute to people facing food insecurity.  Both gardens have passionate volunteers working hard to maintain the farms and who are available to teach new members the skills to work on a cooperative farm.  Both gardens require a 3-5 hour commitment per week and have a reader board with tasks that need to be completed.  As any gardener knows, there’s always weeding to be done.

Albina Cooperative Garden

Albina Cooperative Garden is  located on N Russell St at N Vancouver just south of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.  It is situated on almost an acre of land leased from Legacy Emanuel.  Founders James Ragsdale and Tim Donovan started the gardens in conjunction with Project Grow which is a program for disabled adults.  The current project coordinator is Keith Larson,  He got involved with the garden back at its inception in 2010.  The sole purpose of the garden is to bring people together and being able to offer, through a membership, affordable nutritious produce.  Albina Cooperative Garden currently has approximately 18 members who hope to grow to 40-50 members once spring and summer roll around.  Membership is on a sliding scale that averages $50 and helps to cover costs for compost, the greenhouse, tools, and gloves.  Offering guidance, Larson is at the garden on Wednesday and Saturday from 10am-2pm, but members can show up any time to pitch in.  Virtually any crop can be planted and he’s open to suggestions.  They are even planting kiwi this year. In addition to growing crops for the members to harvest, this year the garden will be growing some produce for Toro Bravo and some other local restaurants.

Besides the members working in the garden, the 4th-6th grade students from SEI Academy come over two days a week to work in their portion of the garden.  They are eager to learn and are a wonderful addition to the farm.  There is lots of tutoring here and they can choose what to plant.

The garden would not be able to continue were it not for the generosity of a number of businesses such as New Seasons and quite a few restaurants including Toro Bravo. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company supplies all the seeds for the garden including unique varieties like tomatoes from Ukraine, and other produce from Argentina and Chile.   Therefore these businesses and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center are able to give back to the community.

Just come and roll up your sleeves. Everything is here for you to work in the garden.

For more details, questions, or to become a member, please contact Keith Larson at keithlarson63@gmail.com. 

Green Table Cooperative Farm

Shara Alexander at Green Table Cooperative garden
Shara Alexander at Green Table Cooperative garden

Green Table Cooperative Farm is the other cooperative garden in Eliot and it is located on NE Tillamook between NE Rodney and N Williams.  This garden was started in 2007 by Project Grow to help disabled adults learn about gardening.  It was then taken over by Albertina Kerr who pared down the program.  Shara Alexander got involved in 2011 with Portland Grow, but now runs the garden on her own as a cooperative garden and with her background in horticulture, garden design and management, and her love of giving back to the community is finding a perfect extension of all her talents and passions.  This garden is situated on private property and has a year to year verbal agreement with the property owner.  The current agreement for the garden goes until September and then Alexander will check to see if they are willing to extend the agreement for another year or if they are ready to develop the property.

The membership for this cooperative garden is free, but a 3-5 hour per week commitment is requested.  As Alexander calls it, “farm church” on Sundays goes from 9am-12pm now and then Wednesdays from 6-8pm will be added around March 18th.  Currently there are 10 committed members with 3-4 showing up each weekend and as spring rolls around as many as 10-15 gardeners are expected to dig in.  You can sit and watch, come and learn, become a member, or just show up and join in.  There is a partnership with Ivy Montessori and the middle school did some planting recently.  However, more members are always welcome as many hands make light work.

Communication is vital in a cooperative garden since all members are not present at the same time, so signs identifying plants and a reader board with a task list keep everyone informed.  Alexander also sends out a weekly email to all members, which rounds up what was done last week , what’s happening this week, and great gardening tips members can use in their own gardens.

There’s no budget for either of these gardens and they operate on very little labor as well, so it’s like a scavenger hunt for everything you need trying to find free resources from anywhere to solve the problems.  The Green Table Cooperative Farm has flourished with free seeds from seed banks, free wood chips from tree service companies, and free cardboard from Widmer Brewing Company.  A vast variety of produce is grown here including cilantro, fava beans, apple trees, figs, jostaberry, Korean cherry, herbs, honey berry, kale, and red Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, garlic, and onions.  In addition to the produce, there are the resident chickens who are laying a couple dozen eggs a week.  As more eggs are laid in the spring, to help offset the cost of the chicken feed, members can purchase a dozen eggs for $5 and non-members can buy some eggs for $6 a dozen.

For questions or to become a member, contact Shara Alexander at greentablecoopfarm@gmail.com and check out their Facebook page.

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