Veggie garden raising plenty for food bank
Volunteer coordinator Jerry Stansberry carries a crate of freshly picked lettuce to his truck for delivery to the Snohomish Food Bank on Tuesday, July 8. About eight volunteers spent the morning working in the garden located at the Bailey Farm south of Snohomish.
SNOHOMISH — As volunteers walked the rows of vegetables that comprise the six-tenths-of-an-acre Martha Perry Veggie Garden last week, they marveled at the full sun and good soil.
It was a good day for harvest.
A bounty of lettuce, about 36 pounds each week these warm weather days, was clipped, cleaned and put into large crates to be taken to the Snohomish Community Food Bank and the Maltby Food Bank.
Last year, the garden yielded 20,000 pounds of vegetables, ranging from lettuce to potatoes, radishes, peas, zucchini and squash. The volunteers, which number almost a dozen, worked all morning and were ready to call it quits for the day around noon as the blazing July sun warmed the air.
“It’s a labor of love,” garden volunteer Jerry Stansberry said. “I’m really proud of the work that all the volunteers do here and it’s such a nice community effort.”
Stansberry has been part of the community garden effort since it began six years ago. He said that apart from the volunteers that help twice a week, the community contributes to the garden’s success.
Bailey Vegetables, run by a family that’s farmed land along the Snohomish River since 1913, donates all the water for the garden, as well as maintains the soil in the offseason. Other places such as McAuliffe’s Valley Nursery just up the road on Springhetti gave starts for the garden, as well as Haggen’s and Snohomish Garden Center.
Stansberry said the garden can’t thrive without all that extra help.
Volunteers gather each Tuesday and Thursday morning to help with the harvest aided by a recent stint of warm, clear weather the area has experienced. Most of the volunteers are part of the Snohomish Garden Club.
“I like the idea of doing some service and learning about vegetable gardening,” volunteer Nan Friesen said. “The fact that it helps people is why I do it and you know, everybody needs some fresh vegetables in their diet.”
Friesen, a garden club member from Marysville, said she began volunteering with the community garden this year.
“It’s my first summer here and I love it,” Friesen said.
Other volunteers have been with the garden for several summers. Some bring their grandchildren along.
The planting, maintenance and harvest usually begins in May and runs through October. Stansberry said sometimes the harvest lasts through December because of the large amount of potatoes.
When it comes time to deliver the harvested goods to local food banks, Stansberry makes the deliveries in his apple red 1948 Chevrolet truck.
The community garden is a vision of Martha Perry, who encouraged others to join her in creating it six years ago.
A dedicated gardener, Perry died at age 69 in 2010.
Stansberry and other volunteers, such as Laurie Carter from the Echo Lake area, said Perry worked for a bit in the garden’s first year in 2009 before her cancer started to take its toll.
“She got to live to see her dream come true,” Stansberry said. “I got involved and kept it going because I didn’t want it to die. It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work.”
There is no age requirement for volunteering. In fact, Stansberry said, many school-aged children and teenagers have volunteered over the years. He theorized that may help “grow” some appreciation for gardening as well as volunteer work within the youth.
Stansberry, who taught with the Edmonds School District for 30 years, likes to see kids help out in the garden from time to time.
Right now, the volunteers have been eyeballing the weight of harvest after their scale was broken by field mice chewing through wires. The volunteer corps hopes it can get a new scale soon so they can tally the harvest’s exact numbers.
“I live near The Maltby Café, but I love Snohomish,” Stansberry said. “I think Snohomish is a fantastic community, and with all the help with garden, even more so.”
To volunteer at the Snohomish Community Garden, simply show up at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Bailey Vegetable stand at 12711 Springhetti Road, hop on over to the adjacent land and ask for Jerry Stansberry in the gardening area. He’ll be there to gladly help and welcome volunteers.