Parkrose Heights garden grant grows vegetables and strengthens community

Here’s how another East Portland Neighborhood Organization grant program fulfilled its promise – in a most bountiful way …

Katrina Kellmer, coordinator of the Community Garden project in Parkrose Heights, marvels at the bounty of organic vegetables her plot produced.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As the gardening season got under way earlier this year, East Portland News brought you the story of how Parkrose United Methodist Church (PUMC) ripped up a good portion of its own lawn to install a community garden. (CLICK HERE to read it!)

PUMC Pastor Bill Gates credited member Robb Eaton – who we photographed “busting sod” for that article – with spearheading the idea, and for organizing a committee to apply for an East Portland Neighborhood Organization grant to help buy the supplies to build the raised-bed garden.

Because of work obligations, Eaton relocated to Washington State after the project got underway. But, Katrina Kellmer stepped up as the garden’s coordinator.

“This is important for the learning experience,” Kellmer told us when we revisited the Community Garden, located on NE Knott Street, just east of NE 111th Avenue. “It’s helped a number of people in a number of ways.”

The Community Garden was created to grow food – as well as to grow interpersonal understanding.

While Kellmer said she enjoyed learning how to garden organically, and how to “get my hands in the dirt”, she felt “overwhelming joy” to see the bounty produced in the garden beds. “The reward of having a finished product is just outstanding.”

As noted, the group decided to garden organically. “With the help of Judith Day, an organic gardener, we learned a lot about organic gardening. She helped us get our seeds going, early in the season, in her cold frame.”

Friendships grow along with vegetables
Making new connections with a diverse community was, from the start, a significant part of the project, said Kellmer. Working with people from the Ethiopian and Hispanic fellowships – and neighborhood people – was a experience for her, she said. “The increased communication and understanding was just great.”

Pastor Gates agreed, adding, “We thought this community garden would be something that would connect people, by way of sharing space and working the earth together. And so, it’s working out well. We get to know each other better by working with each other.”

(From our Front Page) Gardener Beyene Edo says the garden provides nourishment for both body and spirit.

Kellmer and Gates introduced us to a gardener, Beyene Edo, who’s originally from East Africa. He smiled as he looked over his garden plot, now bursting and overflowing with all kinds of vegetables.

“Our Oromo Seventh-day Adventist group worships at Parkrose Methodist,” Edo told us. “The garden is very good; it provides for us well.”

When asked about the garden project itself, beyond the food grown there, Edo paused and collected his thoughts. “It is good to work. One has to have food. It is spiritual to see something grow from the earth. We work, plant and tend the garden, and now, we have to have something to eat. So, the garden provides food for the body, and food for the spirit.”

Gardeners and community members gather in the garden before their Harvest Celebration.

Gardeners share bounty with neighbors
On October 2, the community was invited to a Harvest Celebration. “We’ve invited garden participants, Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors, Oromo Church, Inglesia Del Jesucristo, Vida Abundante, David’s Harp, PUMC, and others,” Kellmer said.

The reason PUMC got involved, Gates said, was because “Our ambition is to have people talk about the spirituality of growing, and work together. We work together, we harvest together – there’s something wholesome and community minded and strongly spiritual about that. It’s a safe place for community spirit to grow.”

PUMC Pastor Bill Gates shares a reading with the group.

Kellmer welcomed the group as participants gathered in the garden. Pastor Gates shared a brief reading from the 10th century composer, Hildegard of Bingen:

The earth is at the same time mother,
She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.
The earth of humankind contains all moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power.
It is in so many ways fruitful.
All creation comes from it. Yet it forms not only the basic raw material for humankind, but also the substance of the incarnation of God’s son.

Gardners shared their joy for the creation of the community garden, as well as the crops and friendships it cultivated. Then, the group went into Miller Hall to enjoy a meal, prepared with food grown in the community garden.

At the Harvest Celebration, Katrina Kellmer introduces Judith Day, the organic gardener who helped them get off to a good start.

Caroline Fairfield and Jenni Aubrey put out food prepared for the banquet, most of which came from the garden.

Everyone agreed that the tasty dinner was a good way to celebrate the first successful season of the Parkrose Heights Community Garden.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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