Crops from church garden feeds hungry families

See how the fruits of these Russell neighborhood volunteers’ labors are helping others in need …

Hidden behind the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ is a “secret garden”, where volunteers grow vegetables and fruit.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton

A large community garden, located along NE Halsey Street, between the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ (PCUCC) and the BiMart store, is clearly visible from the street.

But, on land out of the public view behind the church building, volunteers are keeping up a separate “church garden”.

Picking fresh beans in the garden is volunteer gardener Clay Osburn.

“In essence, this is a community garden space,” remarked Clay Osburn –known as “Mister Tomato” to many, because he’s grown a wide variety of the fruit and in large quantities.

“We do this to promote our good health; and also, to supplement other people’s grocery needs here in the Parkrose community,” Osburn told East Portland News.

The hundred foot square church garden has evolved considerably over the eight or nine years since its creation; it now features entirely raised beds, making work easier for the gardeners’ backs.

As summer comes on, the PCUCC garden flourishes.

Another volunteer, who’s spearheaded both the garden and the planting of the church’s orchard, is Ron Glanville.

“It’s mostly just Clay and myself who keep up this garden; we’ve been doing it for years now,” Glanville smiled.

“We’re growing two types of green beans; cucumbers; three different types of beets; and we have zucchini, basil – and I just harvested all the carrots. We have two types of tomato – and our orchard is mature, so it’s filled with fruit, including figs, pears, plums, apples, and quince.

“Quite an amazing variety, really,” Glanville mused.

Ron Glanville shows off a bearing quince tree, now loaded with fruit.

In past years, the garden would supplement the fresh vegetable needs of many of their church’s members, as well of people in the community. But with the church currently not meeting, they’ve found another outlet for their produce.

“Some people come when we have an ‘open table’ on weekends, and pick up produce for a donation to help defray the costs of operating the garden,” Glanville explained. “But most of our fruits and vegetables have been going to the SnowCap Community Services pantry.”

So, instead of complaining about being stuck inside with “nothing to do” during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, these volunteers are using their green thumbs, and labor, to help feed others.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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