Ingrid Highlights Some Spectacular Garden Volunteers

By Published On: November 12th, 2013
I’m always reluctant to highlight the work of specific MPFS community garden volunteers. For every one person I name, I know I’m missing at least ten other amazing folks. But this month I’ve decided to take a leap and call out a handful of our spectacular volunteers working in the gardens these days.

Several are fairly new, and others have been with us for years. Every day the dedication of these volunteers inspires me… thanks to them, MPFS gardens this fall are looking fabulous! To the other heroes of the gardens I’m not mentioning, a hearty thank-you goes out to each of you as well…

Every Thursday morning the gardens cubicle wakes up to a lightning bolt of energy in the form of Ken Bush bounding in to discuss the latest excitement in the world of seed-saving and the Edible Landscape. Rain or shine doesn’t stop Ken, and his enthusiasm to pull weeds in even the pouring rain puts me to shame. Ken heads up the MPFS Seed Savers group as well, in addition to his countless hours beautifying and planting in the Edible Landscape no matter what the weather. When asked why he volunteers, here’s what Ken says: “As a long-time volunteer I look for three things when considering new volunteer activities:  challenging projects, interesting locations and good people to work with.  I have found all of these at Marion Polk Food Share’s edible landscape.  Drop by and check it out.  Anyone can grow a garden.” We’re so appreciative for you and all that you do, Ken!

Anne O’Rourke volunteers with the MPFS Gardens Program to: “Inspire youth to eat healthy and stay active outdoors while planting, growing and harvesting food.” And don’t forget, “It’s fun!” She has been one of our core volunteers in gardens for more than a year now, currently helping instruct at three different kids garden clubs per week in addition to helping out at the Youth Farm. Anne has a gift of combining her extensive knowledge of gardening and farming with a sense of enthusiasm that is contagious, especially to the kids she works with….she particularly likes coming up with games and crafts to incorporate into the garden clubs. She is also working toward becoming an Organic Certifier, and is consulting with our Youth Farm Manager to bring the Youth Farm to a whole new level of sustainability. Anne is a joy to work with and we’re thankful she’s part of the MPFS Gardens community.

Mary Jo and Lee Emmett have been part of the John Knox CommunityGarden in Keizer for all of its five seasons thus far, and in 2011 became Garden Coordinators. The garden currently includes eleven gardeners working twenty 16×16 plots, plus a large section worked by the Iglesia de Jesu Christo Puerta del Ceila congregation . The labors of love Mary Jo and Lee put into that garden are endless, loading horse manure to spreading leaves in the fall to harvesting and donating food for the Keizer Food Bank during the summer.

These days they’ve been working on a project made possible by the Sunrise Rotary Club, which includes a new fence, gate, and raised beds to create in inviting front area. And on top of that…they just built a new garden shed!
Mary Jo describes why she does it: “Doing the garden is really an extension of my church work. It’s in real keeping with my own ethos of utilizing what’s been given to us. It just made sense to put in a garden to enable people to grow their own food, to be outdoors. I find it’s a joy and a sense of accomplishment to fix a meal where most of it comes out of your garden.” And for Lee, “It’s been part of a family tradition to garden. Going back several generations, home gardening has been a family tradition. In adulthood I’ve enjoyed it and this is a way of sharing that enjoyment with others.” Community gardens will only flourish if led by dedicated Garden Coordinators, and Mary Jo and Lee certainly have made John Knox Community Garden what it is.

Since the end of August, Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston have volunteered over 100 hours combined planting and weeding in community gardens. They first responded to our need for “Super-Weeders,” and recently have decided to step up and help coordinate Julie’s Four Corners Community Garden in SE Salem. When asked why they volunteer with the MPFS Gardens Program, here’s what they say: “Vandana Shiva says that nature shrinks as capital grows.  Working in MPFS community gardens grows nature — grows soil, plants, food, and healthy people, thereby shrinking capital.  We work in MPFS community gardens because we want to grow nature and shrink capital.”

Both Michael and Sarah are passionate about growing beautiful garden spaces where kids can gain a sense of order and stability in their sometimes chaotic lives. And Michael knows first-hand how unstable kid’s lives can be…he’s worked with young people most of his career, first as a teacher for ten years, then for 25 years working on juvenile law cases with the Oregon Department of Justice. We are indeed fortunate to have Sarah and Michael as our two newest Garden Coordinators.

Thank you to all our wonderful community garden volunteers and coordinators – the MPFS Gardens Program wouldn’t be what it is without all your hard work!

To volunteer in the gardens, contact Ingrid Evjen-Elias at 503-581-3855, ext. 329 or .

Photos: (top to bottom) Ken Bush, our Edible Landscape Guru, planting a fava bean/vetch cover crop;  Fairy for the day, Anne O’Rourke plants garlic at the Youth farm – wherever she goes she works her magic!; Mary Jo and Lee Emmett proudly standing by the new gate they’ve constructed for John Knox Community Garden. The project was made possible with funding and help from the Sunrise Rotary Club; Michael Livingston and Sarah Owens (not in photo) have transformed the Hammond Kids Garden from a grassy jungle to an oasis of lush growing vegetable.