Wendell Berry Community Garden
A project of Sustainable South Sound’s Local Food Systems Program… Welcome!
How and where our food is grown, and how it gets to our table, has tremendous implications for our ability to create a more sustainable future.
The Local Food Systems Program seeks to increase the amount of food grown on public property and private land in the Olympia urban area by advocating for changes to public policy, providing information and resources, and building a vibrant network of urban farmers.
The Wendell Berry Community Garden was established in May of 2009. The garden was named after novelist, essayist, poet and farmer Wendell Berry, who for over 40 years has been reminding us that eating is a political act, and that how we treat the soil and how we produce our food is a reflection of our values. Berry believes that it is only by reconstructing our agricultural system from the soil up that we might hope to achieve a sustainable future and a more caring and peaceful society.
Unlike most community gardens that divide the land into small parcels to be planted and tended by individuals, this garden was managed by a collective of people who jointly share responsibility for planning, tending and enjoying the bounty. Collective management allowed us to think more long term and to design systems to maximize the sustainability of the land. For example, the gardeners were committed to producing all of the compost and organic material needed for ongoing soil health on site, so that we didn’t need to continually bring in outside inputs, thereby reducing our environmental impact and carbon footprint.
In addition, through a partnership with the Olympia Seed Exchange we set aside a portion of the land for seed production, so that over time we were raising most of the seed we needed on site, and selected crop varieties that were most adapted to our unique microclimate. In addition, by keeping bees on-site we increased the pollination rate for not just our own garden but for all of the gardens within a one-mile radius.
In its short life the garden became a location for workshops, demonstrations, and tours designed to showcase the potential for raising food in our urban area using sustainable organic methods of production.
The garden was made possible through the generous support of the landowners, Dick and Rosemary Walrod, whose commitment to building a stronger neighborhood and a more sustainable community were vital to our success. In addition, through a partnership with the Northeast Neighborhood Association we obtained a small neighborhood sustainability grant from the City of Olympia to help establish the garden. We also secured further grant funding through the Community Sustaining Fund to support garden expansion.
In our first season we harvested nearly 5,000 lbs. of organic food for collective members, our neighbors, and the Thurston County Food Bank. In 2012 our harvest increased to nearly 18 tons!