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Sumner Community Garden Growing and Growing

More than 100 families are caring for plots at two locations this year. With help from Master Gardeners as well as their neighbors, people are able to learn about gardening and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors.

The late June rains haven’t stop gardeners from planting their crops at the Sumner Community Garden.

“The garden has over 100 families this year who have gardening plots,” said Sumner City Councilmember Randy Hynek.

Year-round and seasonal crops, including strawberries, corn, onions, raspberries, cabbage and lettuce, are grown at the all-organic garden.

Hynek started the all-organic garden in 2007, but she “had been talking about this (starting a community garden) for a long time,” said Bruce Hotvedt, the Sumner Community Garden field coordinator.

One day, Hotvedt came home from work to find a message that Hynek had set up a meeting to talk about the garden. Hotvedt said everyone started throwing their ideas together, one thing led to another and the project was created. Christ The King Lutheran Church and the City of Sumner helped get the garden going and growing.

There are actually two gardens. One, donated by the church, is a nearly 1.5-acre area with 120 gardening plots. Called Shepherd's Field, it is located at 245 Valley Ave. E., behind the church.The Farm and the Foot Bank Field, which total 17 acres, are owned by the city.

The City of Sumner has funded the Sumner Community Garden and helped administer grants, said Ed Smith, Sumner Community Garden farm coordinator and a Washington State University Pierce County Master Gardener.

Pierce Conservation District has made grants to the garden, which has also received donations from various sources. Someone donated a tractor from the Food Bank.

The Washington State University Pierce County Master Gardeners also has helped the Sumner Community Garden. The Master Gardeners help to empower citizens and enable them to incorporate sustainable horticultural practices, according to the WSU website.

“The Sumner Community Garden was a project of ours to help get the garden going the first year and I stuck around after,” said Smith. “We try to do a lot of education, if people want to learn we know where to go get the information.”

Smith said it doesn’t matter if you are a long-time gardener or a first-time gardener, all are welcomed.

“We try to make this opportunity the best for everyone,” said Smith.

The coordinators do that by having not only individual plots but community plots, too, that volunteers can care for.

For example, there are rows of bean plants and strawberries that people take turns picking and taking care of. And, as a reward for their hard work, they can take some of the crops home, said Smith.

“Some gardeners don’t spend a lot of time volunteering and others do,” he said. “The ones that do volunteer to keep the program strong, we try to reward them.”

Hotvedt said he sees parents bring their young children to help and learn about gardening. There is also a Maple Law Elementary School teacher who has a plot at Shepherds Field. She brought her entire class to the garden.

“The students all planted something and some of the kids have come back to see their plants grow,” said Hotvedt. “It is a really neat thing to see.”

People also learn from one another and help each other out at the garden, said Hotvedt.

“Families from all over the country who have moved here have plots,” said Smith. “Some of them know how to garden in other parts of the country but have never gardened where it rains clear into June and it is a learning experience for them.”

Hotvedt and Smith said a lot of the gardeners either keep their crop or donate it to the Food Bank. Both locations have Food Bank bins that have regular pick up days.

The Sumner Community Garden also has two successful chicken coops. They are gathering 125 eggs a day, which go to the Food Bank and volunteers.

At The Farm they plan to put in a playground and possibly a barn that was donated.

In order to get a plot, applicants must fill out an application that can be found on the City of Sumner website. The application is reviewed by a coordinator, who assigns a plot to the applicant, said Hotvedt. 

“We have room for a lot more people,” said Smith. “The more people interested, the better, because the longevity of the program depends on how many people we can get interested.”

For more information you can contact Bruce Hotvedt at hotvedtbruce@aol.com, Ed Smith at gardenerline@peoplepc.com or call the garden line at 253-299-5798.

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