Seeds of Change: Evergreen Community Garden to open in May
There is something big growing in Evergreen. In a grassy expanse behind the Lutheran Church of Calvary is the beginnings of the Evergreen Community Garden.
The land was plowed, fertilized and a fence was put up. In the coming weeks, what is now a virgin slate of land will continue to transform into a community space for organic growing and bonding.
By the end of May, organizers plan to open the gates with 28 plots, as well as joint growing areas for things like sunflowers, corn and peas. A plot will be set aside to grow vegetables that will be used in the free Thursday evening church meal, with any excess going to local food banks. Picnic tables, a horseshoe pit, bees and nesting boxes will be added during the season, adding to the budding new life in the garden.
Getting this far took many hands, but it all started with a simple idea of a parishioner who wanted his church and community to thrive.
“We had a few people we had to bury and that got me thinking – what could we do to make the church grow?” says Katie Reiss of Kalispell.
She looked behind the church one afternoon last fall and suddenly it clicked.
“We had all this property behind us, this huge piece of land, doing nothing,” she recalls. “What could be better than creating a garden for the inhabitants of the region? “There are a lot of people in Evergreen who don’t have everything, so why not create an inexpensive way for them to come and grow their own food?”
She thought that a garden would be a safe place for people to congregate even during a pandemic and that it could help spark interest in the church, although Reiss noted that there would be no obligation to join – the garden would be open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.
She secured the agreement of the church board, which agreed to donate the land and water, and enlisted the help of members Nina Anderson and Yvonne Nelson to start the project. They spread the word by posting flyers in nearby neighborhoods, speaking to community groups and setting up an online presence. Reiss and Anderson visited other community gardens to find ideas and make plans for the layout of the space and components – like large growing areas, a community plot, and a picnic area – that they wanted to include.
With a plan in place, the next hurdle they faced was funding.
The first on the list was the installation of a fence around the perimeter of the garden.
Reiss contacted Mild Fence in October 2020 and expected they would have until March of the following year to raise the necessary funds. But it wasn’t long before she got a call – Mild Fence had an opening in her schedule next week.
She addressed the congregation on Sunday and informed them that while half the money had already been donated, the Evergreen Garden was still $ 2,000 short.
“The same day a parishioner came to me and told me how much do you need? I told them and they said, OK, I’ll write you a check, ”Reiss recalls. “I went to the bathroom and cried because I couldn’t believe it.
While she didn’t know it at the time, it was the first of many acts of generosity she had come to witness.
Dirk Lybeck offered to plow the land for free.
Barton Morse volunteered to start plants for gardeners who couldn’t afford their own.
Two Thumbs Up Landscaping agreed to run the water pipes from the church to the garden at no cost.
People and businesses were coming out of the woodwork to do what they could to make the Evergreen Community Garden possible. And now, thanks to a lot of help, they are in the home stretch.
“This is our way of welcoming you,” said Pastor Craig Nissen. “We don’t say come on [to the garden] so we can get you in here – if it just stays there and we meet some new friends, I’m okay with that.
About half of the plots have been discussed, but more than a dozen are still available. Gardeners pay $ 30 per season for the use of their gardening space, but plot grants are also available for those who cannot afford the fees. No gardening experience is required to participate – many green gardeners have volunteered to offer instruction and advice to newcomers. Those who want to get involved, but are not ready to register for a plot, can help in other ways, such as participating in a day of garden work, donating hand tools or shovels, or planting and weeding. the donation plot and shared cultures.
“In addition to a year where we have all been cut and socially left behind for COVID, the garden is a place where we can encourage the community,” Nissen said. “I want to see us involve people and create spaces and situations where people are taken care of and supported.”