100 new ‘community garden’ plots open in outer East Portland

If you’re interested in becoming an “urban farmer”, but don’t have the land – see where you can get growing this season, in the Russell neighborhood …

Jean Zondervan of Grow Portland welcomes urban gardeners to the new outer East Portland garden site at Eastminster Presbyterian Church.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Historically, churches in outer East Portland have built their houses of worship on vast sites – perhaps planning for future expansion. Instead of additional buildings, the property instead all too often produced a crop of grass – or in some cases, weeds.

Last year, the congregation at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, at 12505 NE Halsey Street, decided to transform the unused property west of their campus buildings into a community garden site.

Not long ago, we caught up with Jean Zondervan, the community gardens coordinator for Grow Portland, a local nonprofit organization which she said is trying to expand urban gardening and urban agricultural in outer East Portland.

Long time Eastminster member Walter Lersch says the idea of providing community garden space came from listening to community members.

“Thanks to our partnership with the Eastminster Presbyterian Church,” Zondervan said, “we have here a pretty good-sized community garden space.”

In total, 100 garden plots are being opened to community members, Zondervan revealed.

The executive director of Grow Portland, David Beller, shows he’s a “hands-on manager” when it comes to helping get garden sites ready for planting.

Helping to prepare the land for gardening was 30-year Eastminster member Walter Lersch. “All of that time, this has been an empty field.

“As part of our mission study, we talked with people in our community, and asked them what they thought would be good for the church to do, and good uses for the property,” Lersch explained.

“At the top of the list was a community garden. As part of that, we continued to reach out into the community and to community organizations, and we were introduced to Grow Portland, and began to work with them,” he added. “We have a very viable and active partnership.”

Clay Osburn – some folks call him “Mr. Tomato” – says he’ll be able to grow even more of his luscious crop, which he’ll donate to SnowCap Charities, at the new Eastminster community garden site.

Looking forward to the growing season, outer East Portland’s “Mr. Tomato”, Clay Osburn, was at the Eastminster garden helping out. “We brought 750 pounds of tomatoes to SnowCap Charities last year from the Parkrose Heights Community Garden. I plan to have about 40 varieties here this year, and I’ll continue to grow food for SnowCap.”

The fees for gardening at the new site are:

  • 15’x15′ Single Plot, $50
  • 15’x30′ Double Plot, $90


However, they’re offering plots at a reduced rate for gardeners on disability, or who are receiving government food assistance.

To find out more, or sign up, visit the Grow Portland website: CLICK HERE to open their homepage.

  • Photo on the front page: Seth Belber, “Lead Grower” at the Grow Portland Damascus, Oregon, site, helps stake out plots at the Eastminster garden.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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