Many know OF the garden, but most don’t know ABOUT the garden. Let me start at the very beginning ... there were once two Hood River churches, Asbury United Methodist Church and Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, that decided to join forces to become Spirit of Grace Church. Located at 1140 Tucker Road in Hood River, the church contributed regularly to the FISH Food Bank with volunteers, financial support and crops from their small on-site garden. Mostly root crops were grown and donated in the beginning (which the moles and voles were thrilled to share with multiple generations!). To keep with the spirit of giving, the church decided to try opening some of the garden to the community, providing small raised beds for individual use. Interest waned, unfortunately, and it was decided that returning the area to one large garden and donating those crops to FISH Food Bank would have a much broader impact in the community.
And so, with much help from church volunteers, school groups, non-profits and numerous local businesses the Spirit of Grace garden grew — to 7,500 square feet! Land was eventually donated by the church for a new building to be built for the FISH Food Bank. Success!
While all of this was going on, in 2016 the then OSU Hood River Master Gardener Education Program Coordinator Rachel Suits received approval to make the Spirit of Grace Garden a project by which Master Gardeners could receive qualifying volunteer hours, while helping to produce fresh produce for the FISH Food Bank. This project was much too large for either the church or Master Gardeners to take on individually, so it was decided that the church would apply for a Jesuit Volunteer Corps /AmeriCorps volunteer, with the help of grants, Master Gardeners and local business donations. That annual volunteer would be the overseer of the garden, along with a Master Gardener project leader.
The Spirit of Grace Garden is truly a result of an entire community of volunteers and donations, providing more than 2,100 pounds of organic produce to the FISH Food Bank this past year alone. A garden has never been more important, nor made more of a community impact than this garden, started so long ago by a truly caring community and supported to this day by so many.
I would be remiss in not mentioning three people who have been involved with this garden from the very beginning and remain active to this day. Hats off to Debbie Chenoweth and Alan Yenne (church members and volunteers) and Scott Fitch (Master Gardener).
I tell you this story because a garden is so much more than a source of food. It is a place to learn about nature, a place to nurture friendships, a place where hope is planted and passed on to others. So plant a garden, no matter how small, the ripple effect can be far-reaching. If you will be in need of plants for your garden this year, stay tuned to this column; the Hood River Master Gardeners annual plant sale will take place, once again, just in time for Mother’s Day.
Master Gardeners are always here to help. Should you have gardening or pest questions you can submit them, online, to the OSU Hood River Extension, Columbia Gorge Master Gardener’s virtual Plant Clinic at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/hoodriver or by phone at 541-386-3343 ext.38259. Please remember to leave your name, contact information and a detailed description of the problem. Master Gardeners are a great free resource for research-based information.