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Planting a vision: Community gardens across Federal Way

Within a year's time, two plots bursting with fresh produce are expected to sprout up in Federal Way.

Master Gardener Mike Stanley and a handful of Federal Way leaders, including representatives from the city council, chamber of commerce, school district, AmeriCorps, St. Francis Hospital and South King Fire and Rescue, are working to establish a non-profit organization determined to sprinkle community gardens across the city.

"Our intent is to build these gardens all over Federal Way and for Federal Way to be known for these gardens," Stanley said.

He announced, earlier this month, plans to construct Federal Way's second community garden at Camelot Square mobile home park, 3001 S. 288th St. Stanley and other volunteers also hope to parent a third garden at Truman High School, 31455 28th Ave. S. The city's first garden was established last year at the Federal Way Senior Center, 4016 S. 352nd St. The Camelot and Truman gardens would be designed by the non-profit and maintained by both the organization and volunteers.

Camelot Square

Residents of Camelot will take ownership of that garden. They will help plant and pick produce and will keep the food they help grow, Stanley said.

The idea is to feed the community and build relationships, he said. Residents will strengthen ties with their neighbors and get to know the non-profit leaders who help them establish their garden, he said.

"They need to have some people come together and invest, if you will, in them," Stanley said.

Truman High School

Over at Truman, students will be the main force behind that community garden. They will work in the garden, simultaneously learning about science and community service, said Nancy Hawkins, Federal Way Public Schools director of career and technical education. She is also a member of the community garden non profit board of directors.

Students will get the opportunity to earn either science or occupational credits by taking a class that incorporates the garden into biology and botany lessons, Hawkins said. The class will be taught by a master gardener and a teacher, she said.

"There are many advantages to having students involved in gardening," she said. "It's a perfect crossover to teach hands-on science principles."

Food from the garden will likely be donated to residents living in senior housing, Stanley said. Some will probably end up at food banks.

"All we have to do is look around a little bit and we seem to find places that need food," he said.

Help along the way

But first, the gardens need funding. Approximately $15,000 is needed for each plot, Stanley said. The money will be used to clear the land, build raised beds, spread topsoil for planting and gravel for walking paths, as well as purchase seeds, compost and fertilizer, he said. Monetary and in-kind contributions are appreciated.

Neither of Federal Way's upcoming gardens will be as large as the senior center's community garden, which was masterminded by Stanley. The senior center community garden celebrated its debut May 1. The 10,000-square-foot garden features peas, rhubarb, beans, corn, lettuce, fruit and more. Last year, the garden produced 100 to 400 pounds of food per week, Stanley said. The food is sent to those in need via Meals on Wheels. It also stocks the shelves of the senior center's food pantry.

City council member Jack Dovey helped celebrate the grand opening of the garden last year when he served as mayor. He is now part of the community garden non-profit. Dovey expressed his desire, this past May at the senior center garden's open house, to see many more community gardens in Federal Way.

"This is something we will look back on five years from now and say 'Wow, that was a good start,'" Dovey said at the time.

Leaders hope to break ground on the Camelot garden by May and the Truman garden before September.

"The benefit is you produce food for people, but you also bring people together in that neighborhood," Dovey said.

Get involved

Contact Mike Stanley to learn more about the gardens, to volunteer or to donate. Stanley can be reached by e-mail at michael_stanley@usa.net.

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