Community Garden Draws People Together from Area Neighborhoods for Common Goal
Tribune assistant editor
The Lynden Tribune
April 8, 2009
LYNDEN — It is a garden for the community, by the community. And it is that way by design.
Sonlight Community Church has donated three-quarters of an acre along Aaron Drive for use by the local community as a plotted community garden.
Behind the initiative of church-goer and community activist Jeff Littlejohn, nearly 300 homes in the neighboring high-density community were invited to participate in the new garden.
The church is simply donating the space and letting the community take charge of planning it.
Littlejohn said it has been a true community effort.
Melissa Nienhuis, resident, said that she was “surprised to see a group who didn’t know each other agree on a plan (for the garden) and work together.” “I have never felt that sense of community,” she added.
Lisa Kusick said the initial meeting of interested residents was shockingly “inspiring.”
She said she got involved because she wanted to grow peas like her “granny” did. “It went from growing peas to growing a community,” she said.
Neighbors from Heartland, Parkview West Apartments, Lynden Manor, Lynden Manor Condominiums, Heritage Park and Fishtrap Landing were all invited to participate. All of those areas are high-density, providing residents little to no room for a garden of their own. The garden still has room for residences of those areas to join in.
Littlejohn said it simply worked out that the location of the garden is surrounded by high-density housing.
A dozen people on a steering committee are planning the rules and bylaws for the North City Community Garden, which is expected to have about 26 households participating. The first order of business was to determine the garden is going to be organic. Other decisions are on the way.
Nienhuis said that it is turning into a great family event, as kids are excited to participate in the learning process.
The garden itself will feature three different sizes of plots ranging from 4 feet square to 10 by 20 feet.
Plans include a communal plot for corn, shrubs, flowers and trees on the outside of the garden, a split-rail fence along Aaron Drive, the creation of a gathering area outside of the garden and the fixing-up of a nearby shed (which at one time was used as a residence for a farmhand) for use by the gardeners.
Discussions over creating raised beds, making it easier for older members to participate, are in the works.
“We want the old-timers to help,” Littlejohn said. “We have so much to learn,” Nienhuis added.
The garden will be planted when the weather allows. Littlejohn said he was able to get Whatcom County and the City of Lynden to work together — a feat in and of itself — to bring in river silt, which a local farmer spread. Edaleen Dairy offered free manure, which was tilled by Eldon Heutink. The most recent layer of compost is germinating, getting ready for planting with another mix of high-quality compost.
Nienhuis said she is looking forward to the opportunity to learn and share in the knowledge of gardening and the community it brings.
Kusick said she has already met neighbors she hadn’t known before. “That is the other part that is so much fun,” she said. “Strangers are coming together with this purpose in mind. That is a big part for me.”
There is hope that in the fall, the plot of ground can be used as a winter garden showcase and that the Lynden Boys & Girls Club, which meets at the church, can play a role in the gardening. Nienhuis thinks that enough food can be raised to donate to Lynden’s Project Hope.
Littlejohn praised the efforts of Third Christian Reformed Church in planting a community gardening seed across Lynden.
Last year, Third kicked off its own community garden (as chronicled in the Tribune) under the direction of Dave Timmer. Littlejohn said that that plan sparked the thoughts of starting one at Sonlight.
Alyce Werkema is also spearheading a similar effort at United Methodist Church of Lynden.
The WSU Whatcom County Master Gardeners will visit the North City Community Garden of Lynden at 10 a.m. on April 18 to help neighbors get ready to grow their own groceries. They will be teaching how to prepare soil, which vegetables are best for our region, how to build raised beds and other useful structures and how to site and design your garden. All are invited to this free event.
As part of Littlejohn’s Imagine Northwest community partnership organization located at Lynden’s New Hope Center, 205 South B.C. Ave., he has created a demonstration garden in the front of the building.
The small garden, which is simply layers of compost and straw on top of cardboard (to keep the weeds out), is designed to allow people to learn how to garden. The style Littlejohn uses enables layering, which replaces tilling.
It has also served as a teaching tool for the youth housed at New Way Ministries, as they helped with the initial planting recently.
E-mail Tim Newcomb at .
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You can visit the North City Community Garden (NCCG) blog by clicking here .