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Creating community from the ground up

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette
 

From garlic to flowers to good times, Community Organic Gardens of Sequim, aka COGS, continues to grow plenty of opportunities for local green thumbs.

 

The Fir Street Garden, behind St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and the June Robinson Memorial Park garden, at the corner of Spruce Street and Sunnyside Avenue, are opening their gates for locals to try their hands at growing their own goods.

 

Last year, 41 individuals, couples and/or families cultivated gardens in ground plots and raised beds, which are reserved for those with difficulty getting up and down.

 

Pioneered five years ago, COGS began with the Sequim High School ecology club’s ambitions to save farmland, says Bob Caldwell.

 

While involved in Friends of the Fields, he received a phone call from a girl with those large ambitions but due to cost, they set their sights on creating a community garden.

 

Caldwell said they felt a good fit would be at a church. St. Luke’s, the first church they asked, accepted, and fundraising and construction work began on the Fir Street Garden.

 

“It’s been a great fit,” said Liz Harper, COGS president.

 

The church hosts potlucks, classes on Saturdays, encourages people to visit the garden and the Rev. Bob Rhoads and other leaders bless the garden each June.

 

“It’s just a pleasant place to be,” Harper said. “It’s also amazing that we started with zero (dollars) and because of the community we exist now.”

 

The outpouring of support keeps coming for the gardens with several annual monetary and compost donations along with past gifts of fencing, tools, a shed, gazebo, paving stones and more. The Clallam County Sheriff’s chain gang even helps place border rocks and compact new gravel.

 

The City of Sequim has partnered with COGS, too, by making the city-run June Robinson Memorial Park garden a sister garden in the program. Gardeners start its third season this spring.

 

Harper said they’ve never seen vandalism or theft except a misunderstanding when gardeners thought their flags were stolen but the wind blew them away.

 

Through the main growing season, gardeners trade with each other and donate veggies and fruits to the

Sequim Food Bank.

 

“How many beans can you really eat anyways,” jokes Harper.

 

Some plots are devoted to specific things such as the food bank and others for herbs, squash and flowers, which are shared among gardeners.

 

“It’s a real sense of community,” Harper said. “That’s what we want. Younger and older people all gardening together.”

 

Some stipulations do apply with taking on a plot such as a $45 fee that helps pay for water, filters, gravel and seeds. No scholarships are available at this time but donations are accepted to help those in need.

“We take in exactly what we need and don’t make any money at all,” Harper said.

 

Gardeners must commit to working a certain amount of hours in their plot, but it’s on an honor system. Some tasks are assigned to every gardener, too, like weeding paths and watering community areas on a rotating weekly basis.

 

One perk of signing up for a plot includes free classes from longtime organic gardener Pam Larsen. She leads eight classes and two field trips for gardeners starting March 5. Additional fees apply for non-COGS members. Larsen’s classes range from learning how to start seeds indoors to what crops grow locally to garden space management.

 

“What’s most import is the soil and what’s in it like microbes,” Larsen said.

 

Each year the gardens’ soil gets better and better because of its use, she said.

 

Caldwell said COGS offers good garden training, camaraderie with other gardeners and you can grow a lot of food.

 

For more on COGS, visit them online at http://cogs.thecascadian.net.
 Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.
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