You’re starting to see signs of it all around; grass is greening, some brave, early flowers are sprouting, and dormant gardens are starting to wake up. It’s also the time when community gardens are starting up again.
Columbia Falls Community Garden sits on about a half-acre in the city’s Rivers Edge Park. A tall, wire deer fence surrounds the garden space which currently is brown and beige with upturned piles of dirt drying out from the winter. But look a little closer. “We have chives over there, they’re kind of matted to the ground right now, but, if you look really closely you can see like some green coming up out of the middle,” Lindsay Becker is the Columbia Falls Community Garden Coordinator.
“The chives are definitely ready for spring,” Becker said.
She walks to the far corner of the garden where some more green is poking out as the green leaves of strawberry plants unfurl above a layer of straw, “we’re kind of at this frustrating time right now; where it’s sunny enough, and people want to start gardening, but, we need to wait another week or so until we can really start working the soil and start getting peas and stuff into the ground,” Becker said.
The garden space breaks up into individual plots, and community space where vegetables are grown for the food bank, and for Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA Shares. Becker said it’s modeled off the Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society (PEAS) Farm in Missoula.
Last year they had 5 CSA shares, this year it’s 7, and Becker says they’re already sold out. She describes it as a veggie-subscription; you pay up front at the start of the season, “as veggies become ripe, you can pick up a box of veggies each week,” Becker said. “What that does for the farmer, is it gives the farmer some security, it gives us some security in that we know that we have funding for the season, we know that we can pay a staff member, we can pay for our equipment supplies in the beginning of the season.”
Becker says through the summer each CSA shareholder will average about 10-pounds of vegetables from the garden each week. What are still available are garden plots for individuals and families looking to grow their own veggies on a 12-by-12 area, “the square is just kind of plotted out in the ground, and then they’re free to do with that what they want,” Becker said, “as long as they make sure not to use pesticides and don’t use any synthetic fertilizers or anything like that. We’re not certified organic, but we do our best to adhere to organic standards.”
Becker says a dozen plots remain out of 18. She says they also have work-for-food volunteer days through the summer. They’re registering people for the garden plots now through the First Best Place at Glacier Discovery Square in Columbia Falls.It costs $50 up front to have a plot for the season, $15 of which is refundable at the end of the season after your plot is cleaned up and prepped for winter. Gardening will be starting up in the next couple of weeks.
Below is a link to the “First Best Place” website with information about the Columbia Falls Community Garden.