Dig Deep, Portland!

Updated 5/15 – Steve Cohen of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability gives credit to the many volunteers involved

Updated 5/5 – Portland Mercury reports on the planting ceremony with photos

All around town, gardeners’ spring sprouts are pushing through the soil and, as first reported in last week’s Oregonian, Portland City Hall will be joining in and sowing some beds. Well, the Mayor and City Commissioners might not actually be out there in the dirt each day, but Portland will finally break ground on its own victory garden this Friday, May 1! With the help of the Food Policy Council, Dan Bravin of City Garden Farms and the Portland Organiponico Project will till a sizable plot of the East Lawn, in time for a planned dedication and planting next Tuesday. Steve Cohen, of the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability explains that, “All materials for the garden have been donated [and] there will be over 500 sq. ft. of vegetables, plus blueberries, arctic raspberries, wintergreen, currants, cranberries, honeyberries, lingonberries, columnar apples, and a pineapple guava or two.” The organic garden is meant to serve as a model for local citizens to grow their own food, with all of the resulting produce being donated to Loaves and Fishes Elm Court as a part of the Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign.

It has been an encouraging month for the revival of victory gardens and urban food production. With this garden, Portland joins the ranks of other city and state governments who’ve re-planted their civic lawns: Baltimore City Hall, California’s Capitol Park, the Vermont Statehouse, the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s recently-announced expansion of the USDA People’s Garden. And that’s leaving out the incredible example set by the White House garden, which began planting at the end of March. Word has it that the Obamas’ garden is already taking off – the first meal with garden ingredients was prepared this week and additional produce was sent to a DC soup kitchen.

When the whole nation seems focused on big development projects as holding the key to economic recovery, it’s good to know that some local governments see how urban food security can be the perfect “shovel-ready” project.

If you want to see the early stages of Portland’s new city garden in-person, swing by City Hall from 9 am to 2 pm on Friday, May 1.
From Steve Cohen:

The FPC asked City Council passed a resolution asking city council to create a better Together Garden at City Hall that would inspire others to plant their own gardens and an extra row for the hungry. The Commissioners passed that resolution on Earth Day, April 22, 2009.

Elm Court Loaves and Fishes, five blocks from garden, will receive the harvested produce and fruit. They serve 250 meals on-site and deliver 250 meals a day. All labor and materials for the garden were donated. It was a community project and the garden was created and installed by many volunteers, including:

Mary Bedard of Mary Bedard Landscape Architecture–design and installation
Dave Barmon and Mark Parisien of Fiddleheads Landscapes–oversaw the entire installation and did the stonework with John DiBona.
Jim Gilbert, whose One Green World company was a recent City of Portland BEST award winner for sustainable businesses, provided and planted the edible shrubs and trees.
Dan Bravin rototilled and, along with Alani Kelley, planted the vegetable starts donated by Brentwood Park Nursery.
Portland Nursery also provided starts and anything else we asked for.
Concentrates pitched in with soil amendments.
Wood Waste Management supplied drop boxes, composted our old grass, and provided gravel.
Smith Rock and Heritage Rock donated flagstone and boulders.
Ongoing maintenance will be provided by OSU Extension Service Master Gardeners with help from community volunteers.

Thanks for sharing

  1. M. D. Vaden of Oregon
    M. D. Vaden of Oregon05-28-2009

    Let’s see if this becomes a productive and practical idea, or just a politically correct publicity stunt.

    One thing is certain – if plants are going to grow on Portland soil, can’t go far astray with food crops. Something needs to grow there, so why not food.

    We’ll hope for the best in this nutritious landscaping.