Sustainable success stories from GROW's lush gardens By Damen Rodriguez
If you wander down Buchanan Street in Boundary County, you'll stumble upon a thriving oasis of community, sustainability, and fresh produce. Nestled on the grounds of Trinity Lutheran Church, the GROW! garden has been quietly, yet prolifically, playing a vital role in the lives of local residents for 15 fruitful years. But what exactly is GROW! all about, and how have they been sowing the seeds of change over the spring, summer and fall months?
GROW!, which stands for Gardeners for Organic Wellbeing, is a testament to the power of community-driven sustainability. The heart and soul of GROW!'s mission is to bolster the local food system while promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Their work extends far beyond growing vegetables; it's about cultivating a sense of well-being and fostering a vibrant, engaged community.
To get a glimpse of their impact, look no further than their impressive track record during the spring and summer months. With a relentless dedication to their cause, GROW! planted a remarkable 40-tree orchard, featuring an array of fruit trees that might surprise you in the North Idaho climate: peaches, nectarines, figs, goji berries and blueberries. This orchard, a year and a half in the making, now stands as a thriving testament to their commitment. While the garden itself thrived, GROW! president Michelle Muir and her team offered invaluable education to the community. Arthur Church, one of the board members and a walking encyclopedia of gardening wisdom, hosted numerous classes in the garden. From soil enrichment techniques to rehabilitating old orchards, these classes empowered residents with the knowledge to cultivate their gardens successfully.
Summer marked the time for GROW!'s hard work to come to fruition, quite literally. With abundant harvests of tomatoes, beans, peas, corn and peppers, the team had more than enough to share with those in need. Local food banks, the Restorium and the Senior Center received their bounty, filling the plates and hearts of countless residents. As the season rolled into fall, late crops like zucchinis, corn and squash ripened, joining the ranks of their previously mentioned successes. This season alone, GROW! has managed to donate over 1,000 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce to neighbors in need.
Now, what's the secret behind GROW!'s flourishing garden? The answer lies in the dedication of its volunteers. Over the past season, GROW! witnessed a significant increase in volunteer engagement. They introduced garden and orchard workdays on the first Saturday of each month, complemented by short classes that not only attracted green thumbs but also bolstered the volunteer base. After all, as the saying goes, "Many hands make light work." While the volunteer roster diversified over the season, the core group remained solid, composed mainly of board members and a neighbor who generously donated both time and equipment to keep the garden thriving. And they're not alone; local businesses like Boundary Tractor and Sugar Plum Floral have lent a helping hand to support GROW!'s initiatives.
Sustainability isn't just a buzzword for GROW! It's a fundamental principle that guides their every action. Gardening, at its essence, is one of the most sustainable practices, but GROW! takes it a step further. They've implemented a drip-line watering system in the orchard, several raised beds and two hoop houses. By targeting water usage precisely where plants need it, they significantly reduce waste. This system is set to expand across most of the garden next year. Furthermore, GROW! practices soil stewardship by planting cover crops. After harvesting a section of the garden, they sow cover crops, which, once mature, are tilled back into the soil, enriching it with essential nutrients. The result? Lush, fertile soil ready for another season of planting.
While the numbers tell a compelling story, sometimes it's the little moments that resonate most deeply. During a visit from a local Scout troop, Michelle offered the kids a chance to taste fresh vegetables plucked straight from the garden. For many of them, it was a revelatory experience. The expressions of wonder and delight on their faces as they savored the flavors of the garden-fresh produce were priceless. These small moments reaffirm the profound impact of GROW!'s work in the community.
As winter approaches, GROW! doesn't plan to hibernate. They have an exciting lineup of events, including the second annual Pumpkin Carving Party for neighborhood kids, where leftover pumpkins will be donated to local food banks for jack-o'-lanterns. From November to March, GROW! will host a series of potluck-and-learn classes, providing an opportunity to connect, learn and grow together. The community can become part of this thriving movement by attending these classes or following GROW! on Facebook (search GrowBoundaryCounty) and subscribing to their newsletter through the website (GrowBoundaryCounty.org). Donations are also always appreciated and go a long way in supporting GROW!'s mission.
The organization’s impact is far-reaching, but their ambitions extend even further. With plans to secure grants and donations, they aim to update their water system, expand the garden to better serve the community, and implement drip-line watering throughout the garden. They also envision building a kiosk-type sign at the garden's entrance to highlight sponsors, share garden maps, and educate visitors about GROW!'s mission. As GROW! continues to nourish the community and promote sustainable practices, one thing is clear: The future looks greener, tastier and more vibrant for Boundary County. In the words of Dan and Michelle Muir, “GROW! is sowing the seeds of change, one garden bed at a time.”
So, whether you're a seasoned gardener or a curious newbie, there's a place for you in this thriving community of earth stewards. Come, be a part of GROW!, and watch the harvest of sustainability and community flourish before your eyes.