Rosewood-area community garden celebrates 3rd ‘Grand Opening’

See why friends and gardeners involved with this Outgrowing Hunger program are living the organizer’s ‘dream’ …

Although this community garden started as one man’s dream, it does take ongoing work to make it flourish.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A long-time member of the Lynwood Friends Church, Jan Gray, said she and other members of their fairly small congregation would end up fulfilling a vision that had come to a community activist in a dream years ago.

Speaking with East Portland News at the East Portland Neighborhood Gardens’ third anniversary picnic, which was held at their church, Gray said members of this mid-County faith community had wanted to start a community garden, but had made little progress.

“One day, this man, named Adam Kohl, walked into our church office and asked, ‘Have you ever thought of using some of your property to host a community garden?’ We told him, ‘Yes, indeed we have!’”

Lynwood Friends Church member Jan Gray and Outgrowing Hunger Director Adam Kohl spend a moment together at the third “grand opening” of the East Portland Neighborhood Gardens.

Kohl said he had tired of toiling in the corporate world, and now yearned to find a way to make a real difference in his community.

“About four years ago, I woke up at 3 a.m. one morning; I was trying to figure out what to do after my corporate career ended,” Kohl recalled. “I had an image of people from all different walks of life, particularly people in need or who were under-represented, and [I saw myself] creating projects that would help them reach their potential, through their own efforts.”

His idea was helping people help themselves, instead of “giving handouts, or engaging in paternalistic interactions”, as Kohl explained it to East Portland News. He set about creating a non-profit corporation, called Outgrowing Hunger, to fulfill his vision.

Members of diverse nationalities tend their crops in the new 60,000 ft.² addition to the East Portland Neighborhood Gardens.

“A person who has become Chair of our Board of Directors, Kyle Curtis, was in AmeriCorps service at the school next door,” Kohl went on. “As he was getting to know the community and getting to know me at the same time, he met the church’s ‘Pastor Bill [Moormann]’.

“Having heard what I was trying to do, Pastor Bill said they own a field in which we could do something for the community,” Kohl said. “And so, three years ago, the East Portland Neighborhood Gardens came to be.”

> To read our story about the groundbreaking,
“New Community Garden takes root in Rosewood”,

Kohl pointed out that the gardeners are a mix of different nationalities and abilities. “I just signed up for garden membership, today, a man who is fresh off the plane from a refugee camp in Nepal, who came here to join his family.”

60% to 70% of their gardeners are Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, Kohl said. “They are a refugee population here in outer East Portland. About 10% are Zomi Burmese. The other about 20% is a mix of Latino, Somali, and Caucasian gardeners.”

Families show off their plots, and tour the new section of the garden.

It could be called the third anniversary of the Portland Neighborhood Gardens, Kohl observed, “But, it’s actually a third grand opening of the garden.

“We started with about 5,000 ft.² of garden space. The second year we added 10,000 ft.². Now, with the church allowing us to farm the back field behind our church, we added 60,000 ft.² of garden space for this season!”

There’s no shortage of farmers, Kohl added. “We’re already full. We have 85 families here, representing about 250 individuals participating in the garden this year.”

Denga Bhattarai and Oma Ghimirg are busy preparing freshly-picked vegetables that will become part of the afternoon’s feast.

“Through his organization, Adam has made a lot of dreams come true,” Gray said. “This is what we at the Lynwood Friends Church wanted to do for our community.”

To support, volunteer with, or learn more about, the non-profit Outgrowing Hunger and this community garden, see their website: CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the Lynwood Friends Church, CLICK HERE.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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