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Fresh produce from Capitol Highway garden in demand at Food Box pantry next door

The Neighborhood House garden in Multnomah Village produced a healthy harvest this year, despite fewer hot days than are needed for a super harvest.

Dan Simchuk, volunteer coordinator for the garden, which is located along Southwest Capitol Highway between Neighborhood House and Multnomah Antiques, said an asterisk might be necessary in the record books since he had more land to plant this year.

"We had about 800 pounds of produce last year, and 1,100 this year, but we also added 700 square feet of new growing area," he wrote in an email.

Just after the crops were planted last spring, Simchuk predicted this yield in an interview with the SW Connection.

"I'm shooting for well over 1,000 pounds this year and I'm pretty sure I can do it because I reclaimed 700-square-feet of what used to be a children's playground and we'll plant tomatoes there," he said in May.

For this year's planting season, reclaiming that area paid off.

"I suspect tomatoes are first in volume. I had 90 plants this year. Other high volumes were green beans, potatoes, carrots, radishes, and beets. Eggplant grew really well this year, but I only had about 15 plants," he wrote.

Any halfway serious Southwest Portland gardener can relate to the factor he couldn't control.

"The weather kept the yield down. We didn't have the hot days that really make the tomatoes produce, but overall it was a good year," the retired tech executive reported.

Simchuk took charge of the effort to restore the garden, which had fallen out of use, three years ago. Though he has spearheaded its revival, he says he couldn't have done it without a lot of volunteer help. This year he had crews from Catlin Gabel School, Key Bank, Intel, Lake Oswego Teen Services, and George Fox University come to Multnomah Village and get their hands dirty for the benefit of the clients of the Neighborhood House Food Box pantry, which is located just steps from the expanding garden.

"The best feedback I get is watching the produce I bring down to the Food Box pantry seemingly disappear in moments. Fresh produce seems to always be a hit at the Food Box," Simchuk wrote.

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