Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flagstaff Victory Gardens

Here is an article about the community (i.e. government sponsored) victory gardens in Flagstaff:


Like affordable downtown Flagstaff apartments, plots at community gardens are hot commodities. There are more people now longing to churn their own patches of dirt than garden plots available, says the city. Apartment and condo dwellers are signing up on waiting lists. "In fact, I've been out there gardening and people have stopped by, saying 'Hey, do you know whether there are any plots coming open?'" said Todd Barnell, a gardener who has a space in one community garden.

Reacting to that demand, plus complaints from some that their beloved gardens on donated land come and go at the whim of the landowners, the city has started its first community garden along the Rio de Flag, at Bonito Street and Elm Avenue. It comes in addition to about five community gardens, and could be the first of a few. "You know, the economy has not been all that great, and they're very limited on the existing community gardens," said Joe Haughey, a Flagstaff city councilman who came up with the idea after reading about Victory Gardens grown during World War II. "This is sort of a pilot project to basically create a template so that we could have a bunch of them around town next year," Haughey said.

Barnell and his partner use their plot to grow food, as does another garden member who grinds her own wheat to make bread. "An awful lot of people who use community gardens in this town are using them to supplement their actual supply of food," Barnell said. "... It's not just for fun. It's a way to actually save money on your food." He grows and dries beans, which he eats all winter.

Gardeners at Elm and Bonito pay $35 a year for an 80-square-foot plot. The fee is mainly for the expense of water in a garden that takes up a small fraction of a city block. For groups, it's $65 for 160 square feet. "I think they're going to provide an excellent opportunity for education of school children and get people back to the idea of knowing where their food comes from," said Bob Hoffa, city conservation manager. The first one will likely serve 15 or 20 gardeners and opened May 23.

It is hoped that any excess food could be donated to food banks, and some sort of food contribution could become part of the rent in the city gardens in the future, Hoffa said.

The city spent about $2,000 building the garden, along with water infrastructure. Previously, gardeners using community gardens have become discouraged when their donated land has been redirected for other use, or when land owners have told them they didn't like the sight of certain plants, said Barnell, who also sits on the city's sustainability commission. Haughey is calling the garden a victory or community garden, and a way to cut some of the greenhouse gas emissions generated in transporting food to Flagstaff.

In a time of rationing food domestically to feed troops, Flagstaff was probably home to many Victory Gardens during World War II, said local author and historian John Westerlund. "Because so much food was required for the U.S. serviceman fighting overseas, people in the U.S. were encouraged to grow some for themselves," he said.

To learn more about the city of Flagstaff community gardens, call Bob Hoffa at 213-3600.

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