Community Garden going strong
Last updated 4/13/2021 at Noon
Tucked away in the northeast corner of Sisters, on a piece of land provided free-of-charge by Benny and Julie Benson of Sisters Eagle Airport, is a patch of ground that each summer springs to life with vegetables, flowers, berries, and herbs all grown and tended by a dedicated group of community gardeners.
From humble beginnings in 2006 on an East Adams Avenue lot provided by Habitat for Humanity for $1 a year, the Sisters Community Garden was established to encourage community connections through gardening. Everything needed to start a garden was donated; topsoil, fencing, irrigation, equipment, and five months of weekend labor by the garden founders.
In 2012, the garden had the good fortune to move to its airport location at the instigation of Benny’s dad Marvin, who acted as garden manager for a number of years. The garden grew in size to cover 100-by-140 feet of fully fenced garden space, surrounded by earthen berms on the north and west sides to help mitigate the prevailing winds. The dirt for the berms came from the expansion of the airport runway. Aspen, tamarack, and pine trees planted on the berm serve as the garden’s “arboretum.”
The garden contains 49 individual raised garden beds, with one dedicated to growing plants that attract pollinators, particularly Monarch butterflies. Jeff Tryens has assumed stewardship of this plot, planting two varieties of milkweed favored by the Monarchs for food and laying their eggs. There are also plans to plant butterfly-friendly flowers on the berm. There are six shared plots for fruit, herbs, and flowers.
The garden also features a greenhouse containing 19 raised beds ($10 fee) for winter gardening (waitlisted), a garden shed for storage of tools, and the Back 40, an irrigated area behind the shed that is available for all gardeners to grow zucchini, pumpkins, and other vegetables that might be too large for a raised bed. It is available to all gardeners, first come, first serve.
During the planting and growing seasons, the garden is a busy place. Besides the gardeners tending their individual plots and participating in work parties for the good of the entire garden, the Life Skills class from the high school visits the garden each Tuesday afternoon to help with garden chores and tend one of two elevated gardens.
Garden manager Bob Lawton reported a few plots remain available – large (20x4 feet) for a $35 fee and small (10-12 by 4 feet) for $25. A possible waiver of the fee is available upon request and review by the board. Application and release-of-liability forms are available on the garden’s website http://www.sisterscommunitygarden.org. Print out, complete, and return the forms, along with payment, to P.O. Box 434.
In non-COVID years, the garden has hosted a Lunch in the Garden event on the Thursday of Quilt Show Week as part of the Sisters Garden Club Home and Garden Tour. The fences are hung with colorful quilts and diners sit among the garden plots, enjoying a tasty three-salad lunch with homemade bread and dessert while enjoying the mountain views. The lunch is the garden’s one fundraising event each year.
With two years of no revenue from the lunch, the gardeners decided to “grow” some money by holding a plant sale at the garden on Saturday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will have available for sale six varieties of heirloom tomatoes as well as vegetable starts and an assortment of deer-resistant annuals and perennials.
They are hoping to be able to once again host an evening of Music in the Garden on August 9, subject to COVID-19 restrictions.
Each summer, gardeners donate surplus produce to area food banks. For the last several years VAST Church has had a plot in which single moms grow produce. Lawton said if they could find someone to coordinate the program, they could collect and transport vegetables to the Kiwanis Food Bank on a regular basis.
The garden is located at 15860 Barclay Dr., southeast of the Sisters Eagle airport, off Camp Polk Road.