Coeur d'Alene food banks receive garden produce
Shared Harvest Community Garden in Coeur d'Alene began with a pumpkin seed, said its new president, Sherilyn Long.
Since 2008, the people who have gardened there have donated 57,000 pounds of produce to about 17 food banks. As its name implies, sharing the garden's harvest is part of the mission taken on by this community of gardeners.
In 2008, Kim Normand wanted to have a pumpkin growing contest with friends, Sherilyn said. She found an unused field belonging to realtor Marshall Mend and approached him about using it.
While Kim was broaching the idea to Marshall, she surprised herself by saying, "I want to have a community garden and donate half of the produce to food banks." Marshall agreed.
With the love, generosity and hard work of many individuals and agencies, Sherilyn said, Kim and her husband Mike put the garden together. They provided leadership until at the end of the 2019 season, Kim stepped down as president. Sherilyn replaced her in February.
Produce from the donation plot in the garden at 10th St. and Foster Ave. is given to food banks.
Among the individual plots are some with raised beds, allowing those with disabilities and/or vision issues to participate. Half of the produce from individual plots, which are rented for $25, is also given to food banks.
A demonstration plot dedicated to xeriscape—requiring little or no irrigation—helps people learn about water-wise planting.
"We grow herbs and have a house for mason bees," Sherilyn said. "We also need bee people to help if we want to have honey bees again."
Compost bins, planting barrels and arbors are available to use.
Sherilyn said there are raspberry bushes, and apple, maple and 100-year-old oak trees, as well as the benches and picnic tables inviting people in to sit and absorb the garden's peace and beauty.
Children come there, not only as part of gardening families, but also from the neighborhood. She said they help with weeding or other projects. They also turn over rocks to find out what lives underneath. A children's plot provides a place to learn about nature and grow and explore, to learn more about life.
The community garden offers workshops on such topics as organic gardening, composting, mulching and water conservation. It provides a venue for artists and musicians to show and perform.
Beyond growing food to share, the garden builds community as a variety of individuals meet and work together. It's a place to learn new and old ideas about planting, composting and wise water use. It brings beauty and nourishment to the wider community.
"People in the community are mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually healthier because of this place," she said. "We need places where we can be real, laugh and pause. It's an oasis. Deer come here because it's peaceful."
She and the board have dreams for the garden.
"We want to build worm compost to help with soil regeneration," she explained. "We need to build the soil in order to maximize this growing place.
"We want to incorporate more permaculture to create a sustainable ecosystem. We hope to use our resources to reduce our footprint," she said. "We want to mimic how nature does it, such as no-till gardening, building resiliency."
Sherilyn mentioned some practical goals: They seek ways to preserve the place for future generations. They need to replace the tool shed. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they will have a hand-washing station built.
In a recent letter to members, she outlined other changes, "Because we are unable to gather in large groups, we are going to do our spring clean-up family style."
The letter asks families to sign up for tasks. Leaders will inform them when the tasks will be done.
"We are starting our clean up and registrations early this year because of the need for more food this year and to accommodate the need for minimizing the number of people in our garden at the same time," she said.
Sherilyn asks gardeners to wear gloves and use their own tools. For those needing to stay home due to illness, she said their plots will be cared for in their absence.
Because of need for more food, gardeners are to increase their harvest this year. That includes learning to do succession planting, as well as donating canned goods and produce from home gardens or fruit trees.
"Our garden is also a drop off spot for other gardeners and neighbors throughout the Coeur d'Alene area," Sherilyn said. "Together we can make a difference and show those who are anxious, sad, lonely or afraid that they are loved, valued and not alone."
Produce and canned goods will be collected from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on first and third Wednesdays beginning on June 17. It will continue through the end of September.
Sherilyn added the garden also meets the mental health needs of people, as they come into the garden not only to work, but also to find a place of peace.
Her passion for creating community began early. Her parents were missionaries in the Philippines.
"I became interested in belonging," Sherilyn said. "My mom was a nurse. I lived in a foreign country where belonging mattered. I learned home was where parents and family are."
When she was in the eighth grade, her father died. She and her mother moved to Fresno, Calif., to live near aunts and uncles. After she graduated from high school, her mother died.
In 2003, she earned a bachelor's degree in cultural anthropology at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Sherilyn returned to Fresno, an angry, disconnected, grieving, faith-questioning young woman. She began studying marriage and family therapy, but developed chronic fatigue syndrome and stopped studying.
Deciding she needed a sabbatical, she moved to Oregon and went on a 10-day adventure to Antarctica.
Then she moved to Sandpoint, where she led whitewater rafting trips and worked in a wilderness therapy program.
Realizing that was not for her, Sherilyn began working with developmentally disabled people.
"I liked connecting with clients," she said. "My experiences of living in different cultures helped me understand them. I also liked doing the research."
Because of health issues, she met an herbalist, who led her to attend the School of Natural Healing in Utah, where in 2015 she earned a master's in herbology. During her studies, she worked in Hayden in community development. Now she works at Coeur d'Alene Acupuncture and Holistic Healing.
Sherilyn joined the Inland Northwest Food Network's book club. Its director asked her to teach a class on cooking with wild edibles four years ago.
Wanting to use weeds in the Community Garden's compost pile for the class, she called Kim.
Then she signed up for a plot herself. For three years, she has been on the board.
"We need gardens in our communities. This is not just a garden for me, it's connected to my faith," said Sherilyn, who attends Real Life Ministries. "Having a plot of land to love and tend is an answer to prayer.
"People and gardens are worth fighting for and protecting. Loving anything makes us vulnerable, because there's a risk of losing it. I want this to be a place where people feel they belong," she said.
"I love when we can make things better together. We can do so much more together than one person can do alone," she said.
"This place belongs to our community. I want us to preserve it for future generations. We can be part of something where we can connect with each other while being caught up in something greater than ourselves, as we create a wider culture of meaning. The motivation here is to help foster community, sharing lives as we share our harvest," Sherilyn said
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May, 2020