Students from the Graduate School of Education’s Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) program developed an exciting new project at The Learning Gardens Laboratory in 2010. A section of land at the site is now a Family Garden, with free garden plots offered to families living in the surrounding Brentwood neighborhood of southeast Portland. LSE interns collaborated with community partners to promote the project, and coordinated hundreds of service-learning hours to prepare the plots. Six families adopted plots for the season, and spent many hours working in their gardens to grow their own food. These families were provided with free seeds and seedlings, access to tools, support, and guidance.
The Soto family, one of the initial six, found out about the Family Garden through recruitment efforts at Whitman Elementary School. Their enthusiastic involvement in the project included a relationship with a garden mentor, an experienced gardener volunteering at the LGL as part of the OSU Extension Master Gardener program. This mentorship gives the Soto family someone who can answer their questions, meet with them at the garden, and provide useful gardening advice. They have planted, tended, and harvested beans, squash, broccoli, cabbage, and many other vegetables together.
With very limited funding and lots of people power, a unique program is developing that encourages a multicultural and intergenerational group of neighborhood residents to take an active, engaged role in their food system and community. We hope that with careful tending, the Family Garden at the Learning Gardens Laboratory will grow and blossom.
Written by LSE student Madelyn Morris