Opinion

Community gardens feed Federal Way's prosperity | Mike Stanley

In a recent Federal Way Mirror article, editor Andy Hobbs encouraged the development of “third places” in the city that will bring social well-being and happiness to citizens by creating places for social interaction. These can include the local coffee shop, churches, parks and other safe places to gather.

In support of this idea, the Federal Way Community Garden Foundation is bringing the concept of the French potager to Federal Way in the form of community gardens. These gardens are a great place for social interaction between gardeners as well as all members of the community.

The potager is a beautiful “landscape feature” that not only provides fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers, but also a place of rest and relaxation, a place of teaching and learning, and a place for physical exercise. A potager not only feeds the body, but the mind and spirit as well.

The first potager built by the foundation is the community garden at the Federal Way Senior Center (4016 S. 352nd St.). This 10,000-square-foot garden began operation in the spring of 2009. It is made up of 56 raised beds, has a central resting area with benches, hanging flower baskets and a fountain. The paths are suitable for wheelchairs and walkers. The produce from this garden is given to low-income seniors in our area.

A second community garden is being constructed at the Truman Career Academy (31455 28th Ave. S.) and will begin operation in the spring of 2011. This garden is patterned after the senior center garden with raised beds, a central area with fountain, hanging flower baskets and benches with views of Mt. Rainier. Four additional smaller gardens are in the planning stages and will be constructed at local elementary schools.

The community gardens are all funded, operated and managed by volunteers. Unlike a “pea patch” community garden, where community members rent a space to grow their own produce, the produce from the Federal Way’s community gardens is given away to low-income members of our community.

There are many opportunities for Federal Way resident to be involved with the gardens. Individuals, church groups and civic organizations can all contribute by volunteering in the building, operation and financial support of the gardens. Because of the design of the gardens, most of the

drudgery work (weeding, watering) has been eliminated and volunteers concentrate on the planting and harvesting aspects of gardening. The garden is a great place to learn organic growing techniques and build skills to improve the success of backyard potagers. Local businesses can be involved through their financial support and/or donations.

Volunteering has been simplified and made flexible by the Federal Way Community Garden Foundation. It makes it possible for anyone to help out on their schedule. It also has allowances for all gardening experience levels. Retired folks, there is a place for you. Families with kids, there is a place for you. Church life groups, there is a place for you. Garden clubs and community groups, there is a place for you. Parents of special needs kids, we have a place for you. The gardens are a great place for these special kids, and we will have programs designed especially for them. One specific opportunity we have is for an experienced individual to act as assistant head gardener at the senior center garden.

The new year is a great time to begin making plans for not only your own potager, but also how you can become involved in your community. The community gardens are places where you can be a part of the social interaction that makes Federal Way a great place to live. Come and get involved.

Contact Federal Way resident Mike Stanley: Michael_stanley@usa.net or (253) 279-6443. Also visit www.federalwaycommunitygarden.org.

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