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A residential lot in Woodstock has been a de-facto community garden; now it needs some help

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Elizabeth Ussher Groff Lonnie Port and Conrad and Jennifer Rotter hold spaghetti squash they have grown here - and they add that this garden is a wonderful community. Community gardens make it possible for a diverse group of people to grow their own food. They also are a place where people experience a peaceful environment and get to know each other, socialize, and learn about gardening and conservation.

One community garden that now is in some trouble is in the Woodstock neighborhood. The 10,000 sq. foot "Cesar Chavez Community Garden" at Chavez Blvd (formerly 39th) and S.E. Ellis Street has 50 plots that have served the community well for twenty years, on a piece of land that a neighbor is allowing to be farmed in this way. In the past they have used water provided by another generous neighbor, but that source is no longer available.

For the past six years the garden has been under the supervision of "Grow Portland", a nonprofit organization that specializes in making land available to people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and abilities. Before that, in the past, the land was used for market gardening, and was tended by a few different families over the decades.

Now that the neighbor's donated water is no longer available, Grow Portland is hoping to raise $9,000 to install a water meter to provide on-site water for irrigation. This piece of land as a community garden is very important economically and socially to neighbors in a number of neighborhoods.

Jennifer Rotter, a single mother who lives in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, has been gardening at the Cesar Chavez Garden for three years, and says, "I would hate to see it go. It provides me with a way to provide food for me and my son [who is ten years old], and it's good to get out of the apartment and meet neighbors."

Rotter says several refugee families garden there, and "grow interesting food that some neighbors have never seen before." She describes this as a learning experience for herself, her son, who helps her garden, and for neighbors. Lonnie Port, who has been a member of the garden for six years says, "I love the community here. I have met people I would never have met anywhere else."

David Beller, Executive Director of Grow Portland, has over 15 years of experience in horticulture, agriculture, food policy and community food projects. He says he is dedicated to saving the garden: "We want to preserve this garden space. Without a reliable source of water, the land will be developed like so many other lots in our city."

The person who now owns the land says that when she purchased it over twenty-five years ago, the wife of the late farmer who had tilled it for many years asked her to promise to never sell it to a developer.

She reports that it is very productive soil because of the years of farming, and emphasizes, "It does my heart good, because they're using it well, and it makes me and a lot of people happy."

All plots there are spoken for at this point, but some might open up in the future. Plot fees vary. They are a little less expensive for people who are on WIC, SSI, or SNAP. Fees will be published in the future.

Gardeners can reach the garden on TriMet bus lines 10, 17, 19, and 75. There is also some street parking.

To contribute as little or much as you wish toward the water meter fund, go online:

www.gofundme.com/water-for-the-cesar-chavez-garden

As this article goes to press, $2,568 has already been contributed in one month by 30 people, leaving $6,432 more needing to be raised by December 31st.

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