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Growing Community, One Lot at a Time

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Originally posted in Neighborhood Notes, excerpted here.

By John Chilson

MercyCorps and Grow Portland are turning an empty field in SE Portland into a thriving garden.

On the southern tip of Portland, where Multnomah and Clackamas counties crisscross boundaries, the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhood is host to a new tenant: a garden plot that’s helping an underserved community while providing local produce for hungry Portlanders.

The 2/3-acre garden, once covered in weeds, blackberries and fruit trees, is being transformed into a thriving garden, thanks to a partnership between MercyCorps Northwest and nonprofit Grow Portland. The site was formerly owned by the city, and MercyCorps Northwest acquired it two years ago as part of their New American Agricultural Project that helps refugee and immigrant growers start market gardens.

Grow Portland’s Lauren Morse works with three Nepalese families and says the garden provides a small income for them. “We help with the brand for all the produce and sell in two farmers’ markets in Portland. We also have a CSA program,” she says.

However, it’s more than scattering seeds, watering, harvesting and trucking off kale to farmers’ markets. There are a lot of logistics to figure out, especially for distribution, such as the timing of harvest, so produce can be picked up at certain times of the week and trucked to different places. Morse trucks the produce off to market when harvested as well as ensuring that the wheels are turning in the production of food. It’s a very grassroots operation.

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