By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Have you ever wanted to grow your own organic garden, but didn’t know how — or didn’t have the space to do it? Learn how at the Oksprout Community Garden spring celebration and work day from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The garden is located at 1023 E. Will Rogers Dr. behind the First Church of the Nazarene.
“Dress for gardening – and bring your own tools,” said Cheryl Baker, Oksprout coordinator. “Families should bring the children, especially to hear Oklahoma State University extension specialist Eric Rebek demonstrate how to make bug hotels.”
Insects can be beneficial to the garden so the group will learn how to make habitats to encourage good bugs to stay and make the gardens more productive, Baker said. Garden chores the group plans to tackle include preparing future plots by sheet mulching and loading brush, hauling mulch and compost.
“We are hoping to open eight more plots,” Baker said.
Joining the community garden is free with the only cost being the labor required to make a plot productive. Gardeners save money, eat better, get some exercise, and improve the community, Baker said. Some plots are managed by groups while individuals work many of the 15 by 15 feet plots. Teams are helping needy families as they provide the labor in exchange for harvesting all the fresh produce they can eat.
“Gardening gives people the opportunity to plant the kinds of plants to bring them back to their culture — or just a sense of joy of having the food that they really love and appreciate,” said Adam Cobb, one of Oksprout's founders.
Community gardens provide fresh produce as well as satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment, Cobb said. Sustainable Stillwater helped develop Oksprout Community Garden with the First Church of the Nazarene providing the acreage to work with area residents on a community endeavor, said Pastor Henry Siems. Sabine Lewis, a German teacher at OSU, said she enjoys the camaraderie of people helping each other with gardening practices.
“Gardening in Oklahoma can be quite challenging,” Lewis said. “You have to adapt to climate and wind to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In Germany, we used raised beds but here I’ve learned from the other gardeners as we work together.”
Community gardens began in the United States in the 1890s to provide land and technical assistance to unemployed workers in large cities, along with teaching civics and good work habits to youth. With the outbreak of World War I, the government promoted community gardening to supplement the domestic food supply. During the Great Depression, community gardens provided unemployed workers a way to grow their own food. Victory Garden campaigns during World War II encouraged people to grow their own food for personal consumption, recreation and to improve morale. After the war, only a few gardening programs remained with a rebirth during the 1970s ecology movements. Health concerns have prompted more interest in the new millennium.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends eating more dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes and fruits; eating less refined grains, fat, and calories; and obtaining 60 minutes of physical activity on most days. Recent public health evaluations show community gardens as a promising approach to promote healthy behaviors, Cobb said. This is particularly important among children given the rise of childhood obesity.
Oksprout hopes to develop production to a level where needy families in Payne County struggling to find fresh produce at food pantries can reap the bounty of the garden’s harvests. The gardens include a herb area and a fruit orchard with apples, plums, cherries and peaches. In addition to their own enjoyment and an opportunity to practice sustainable growing methods, gardeners aim to produce wholesome food and share with local pantries — ultimately providing better nutrition for hungry families, Cobb said.
With a focus on sustainability, the garden uses any donations of grass clippings and leaves. Rain water is collected but there is an immediate need to drill a water well closer to the plots. For more information, contact Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations for drilling a water well or other infrastructure needs, may be mailed to Oksprout Community Garden, c/o 217 S. Stallard, Stillwater OK 74074.