Community gardens and cooperative gardens, despite sounding like they offer the same service, differ in essential ways. Community gardens rent plots of land to individuals and those individuals tend to their plot and only to their plot. In a cooperative garden, members share the plots. That means making decisions, planting, and harvesting food together.
The Eliot neighborhood is home to a vibrant cooperative garden called the Albina Cooperative Garden, located on N Russell St and N Vancouver on Legacy Emanuel Medical Center land. While it is too late in the year to apply for a plot in the city’s community gardens, the Albina Cooperative Garden accepts new members all year round.
The Albina Cooperative Garden began in 2010 when Project Grow at Port City Development Center received a five year lease from the Emanuel hospital to create the garden. The garden has grown and morphed over the course of the last eight years. Currently, the garden exists as both a space to grow nutritious, affordable produce and as a platform for educational growth. Interns from Clackamas Community College and PSU have learned how to manage an urban farm while working at the Albina Cooperative Garden. Garden members share knowledge informally, through working side by and side, and formally, by teaching workshops on specific skills like crop rotation, seed saving, and fermentation techniques.
In 2017, Albina Cooperative Garden cultivated various connections to the wider Portland community. A group from Hands on Portland volunteered once a month in the garden from January to November. During the spring months of 2017, elementary students from Harriet Tubman school tended their own plots and learned about growing and managing a garden. When the garden produced more food than members could take home, one of them donated the excess produce to Ronald McDonald House and Urban Gleaners.
The Albina Cooperative Garden hosted a few new events in 2017. They had their first Annual Strawberry Festival in May of 2017, in which community members created and shared dishes centered around strawberries. In September of 2017, the garden hosted a cider pressing and potluck, teaching members and guest attendees how to press cider using an old-fashioned press. Both of these events are slated to take place again in 2018, so keep an eye out if you want to consume strawberries or learn how to make cider.
Currently, the Albina Cooperative Garden has 23 members, but there is room for more! The annual cost to be a member of the Albina Cooperative Garden is $75 for an individual or $100 for a family. 90 – 99% of the membership fees go to paying their water bill for the long, dry summer. In addition to the fee, a member commits two hours a week to working in the garden. The time commitment is flexible and can be shaped around work schedules and family responsibilities. As garden member Leah Walsh stated, “People will love the garden if they give to the garden.”
The Albina Cooperative Garden would love to welcome new members to the garden! The garden committee is currently working on providing low-income scholarships to those who want to participate but cannot because of the annual fee. If you are interested in the status of low-income member scholarships, please contact garden member David Oberstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions about the garden, please contact Dan Franek, the Agriculture Director, at email@example.com or at (503) 490-5185. Visit the Albina Cooperative Garden’s Facebook page if you’d like to keep updated on their work parties and events!