In the last two decades, several community gardens have sprung up around Corvallis. Some exist on privately owned property, some on the city grounds – allowing gardeners from all walks of life to be unified by the love of plant cultivation and support for each other. The gardening, local and sustainable by nature, is trending organic.
Gardens on Private Land
Among exclusive gardens, there is a garden for the renters of Oak Vale Apartments at the corner of Circle Blvd and Witham Hill Dr. The Oak Vale Community Garden is surrounded by an extra-tall fence and this year. Each year, the area is rototilled and re-plotted. The Apartment’s management provides water access with hoses and community tools for those thirty some individuals who reserve their plot to grow their annuals.
Hewlett Packard Community Garden provides gardening space with water for their employees. The garden is nested amidst the factory buildings, south of Building 8 with western exposure. The employees who sign up — and at times end up on a waiting list — can grow there a variety of annual crops.
Sunrise Corner Community Garden is located on the corner of Crystal Lake Dr. and Alexander St., across from CoHo Ecovillage. Started in 2009, SCCG is comprised of seven plots spanning over half an acre, located on the private property of Patricia Parcells and Christine Robins – professionals with careers unrelated to gardening. They invite anyone to experience the joys of gardening and this is the only community garden owned by individuals open to the public. Parcells and Robins founded the garden and Parcells is now managing it.
With tools and water provided and beehives on-site, currently there is no fee or work requirement from the gardeners, but they all share their bounties with the owners. Some gardeners use temporary mini greenhouses for their starters. Additionally, only organic gardening is allowed.
Robins, who spoke with The Advocate, said, “It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction to see neighbors gardening together and learning from each other. But a big disappointment is that, as far as I know, we’re the only community garden in the Corvallis area that’s owned by private individuals. I had hoped our example would inspire other property owners to turn lawns into gardens, but that hasn’t happened.”
To find out more, call 541-738-2610 or visit their Facebook page under the same name.
Across from Garfield Park between 13th St and Dixon, Calvin Presbyterian Church hosts Calvin Presbyterian Community Garden. The plots are available for a $25 per year donation, which provides access to water, usage of gardening tools and wheelbarrows, and other help to gardeners. The church’s motto is ”We believe it builds community and it’s our privilege to host!”
Doug Eldon, who manages the garden activity, said the garden started in 2006 and grew in size over the years. For 2021, six more plots were added so there are 20 gardeners in spe on a waiting list.
Eldon has recorded the history of the garden and shared this excerpt: “Calvin Community Garden has become a community in itself, with friendships established, gardeners helping each other, sharing of seeds, plants, and produce, as well as advice.” Eldon’s history also speaks of the diversity of professions, ages and ethnicities among the gardeners – as well as gardeners from other churches. “A gardener has installed birdhouses for bluebirds and other bug-eating birds, and one member of Calvin Church, Matt Terry, is a beekeeper who has had a very productive beehive in the garden for the past three years. I’ve heard it said that many people in Corvallis know about Calvin Church because of the community garden there.”
Willamette Park Community Garden and Chintimini Park Community Garden were created in 2010 when the Benton County Health Department collaborated with Corvallis Parks and Recreation and other community partners in looking for ways to improve opportunities for outdoor, physical activity. They were awarded $360,000 in grant money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, according to the Community Garden Master Plan.
Becca Meskimen manages both gardens. A native of Northeast Portland, she learned early on the value of fresh food, canning, gardening, and u-picking. As an adult she solidified her standing in the community of gardeners: “I’ve completed a degree in natural resource education and interpretation; pursued training in organic gardening, added-value farming, and the OSU Master Food Preservers certification.”
In keeping with CGMP, Meskimen describes the purpose of the gardens: “My main goal is to promote a functioning and diverse garden family. Just like with any family, our gardeners have a vast spectrum of experience, goals, backgrounds and personalities. Garden members are responsible for their own plot and keep what they grow, but we see a lot of collaboration among the gardeners as they share experience, labor, and produce.”
To keep momentum going, Meskimen schedules member events at the gardens – such as work parties, vision planning meetings, and Master Gardener workshops – as well. Members are expected to put in about 10 hours toward improving the garden each year.
Since the original grant also included BCHD, Meskimen coordinates with Benton County Health Navigators to support some of the garden families.
To contact Willamette Park Community Garden, call 541-766-6918. More information about gardening on the Corvallis Parks and Recreation plots, go to their webpage.
Chintimini Park Community Garden is located in Avery Park. It is recently established, and priority of access is given to adults with mobility challenges. Only organic gardening is allowed, and tools and water are provided with registration. While all the plots are taken for now, one can still sign up for the waiting list at the garden’s website.
Corvallis Environmental Center Management
Marin Oschman manages Dunawi Creek Community Garden located at 4238 Research Way in Corvallis. The garden has about 100 plots available. Besides the plots, the garden includes two berry patches, a pumpkin patch, a food forest, and a very involved composting program. The garden has a fully stocked shed for the gardeners to use and practices exclusively organic gardening.
“The Corvallis Environmental Center (CEC) is a community-based, educational non-profit that has prioritized partnerships to implement programs to address community needs since 1994. CEC’s mission is to create a healthy, sustainable community. We do this through pre-K through 8th environmental education, Farm to School programs, youth leadership development, teacher training, and food security,” Oschman said.
Dunawi has gardeners with experience that ranges from beginner to expert.
Adjacent to DCCG, there is a one-acre plot designated for demonstration and education known as Starker Arts Garden for Education or SAGE. The food grown there is donated to social service partner agencies through the Food for Families program. SAGE is managed by Liz Habley.
“As the Community Agriculture Program Manager for the Corvallis Environmental Center,” Habley said, “I oversee the work at SAGE, which educates cohorts of interns in sustainable agriculture. We teach interns to use organic methods to build soil, compost, manage pests and care for plants from seeding to harvest. The work we do produces ~10,000 lbs of food annually which we distribute via partner agencies such as Stone Soup, South Corvallis Food Bank, and Human Services Resource Center, and Old Mill Center for Children and Families. Thanks to our hoop houses, we extend the growing season to produce over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables. SAGE is open to the public to wander and learn and is also used as an educational space for Corvallis Environmental Center educational programming to help K-8 students make connections to their food system.”
Find out more about the work SAGE does at their webpage.
From a gardener perspective
Cathy Kerr, rents a plot at the DCCG to augment her gardening. “I looked for a community garden that was exclusively organic. I became an enthusiastic Dunawi Garden member last year,” she said. Kerr enjoys the peace, tranquility and community at the Garden. “This past weekend I worked with the Berry Patch crew pruning and weeding – what a great group of volunteers! I highly recommend this experience to any who don’t have garden space where they live.”