At the Winlock Community Garden, a few fresh peas and some healthy radishes are a cause for celebration.
Site organizer Dr. Alicia Spalding explained the space was just created in May and was planted by Winlock School District Students. They have to take every little victory as it comes. Though in Spalding’s mind, there are many more victories to be won.
“I look around and see what it could be,” Spalding said.
Spalding said she was excited this spring to hear that a garden club had started at Winlock High School and that the club had planted a garden on school property. Spalding’s naturopathic practice is located in Chehalis but she was born and raised in Winlock and recently moved back to Winlock to farm her mother’s property. Spalding is the founder and CEO of the non-profit Nature Nurture Farmacy, which focuses on the use of herbal medicine, sustainable farming and education.
After the school’s garden club planted their very first garden entirely with donated plants and seeds in May, the teacher who had been overseeing the club was transferred. It was then that Spalding was asked to step in and take over the upkeep of the space. She said she jumped at the opportunity because it accomplishes all the goals of her non-profit in one space.
“We’re still in our infancy,” Spalding said of the Winlock Community Garden. “Right now it’s just getting the garden to grow so when the kids come back in the fall they see things here.”
Spalding said she believes the garden can create a multitude of benefits for the Winlock community. Spalding noted that a lot of people in Winlock experience poverty, so a community garden can be a way to get fresh, whole foods into the hands of those who need it. Anything harvested out of the garden this year will go directly to the Winlock/Vader Food Bank and the Olequa Senior Center as well as to volunteers.
Spalding added she envisions the space being something that teachers of many disciplines can use as an outdoor classroom.
“When kids are connected to nature, when they’re connected to plants, they do better in school and they’re more grounded,” Spalding said.
Kate Chapman, a member of the board of directors for Nature Nurture Farmacy, said the Winlock Community Garden and other projects like it have a wider benefit of offering a space that can teach people about subjects such as sustainable and organic growing techniques, using food as medicine and simply the benefits of knowing where your food comes from. It is potentially a community educational resource where organizations such as the WSU Lewis County Extension might be able to offer courses.
“For being a farming area, a lot of people have lost touch with where our food comes from, so I think things like this are a good opportunity,” Chapman said.
Supporters of the Winlock Community Garden are working to make connections within the community to secure funding and support for the community garden. Spalding said anyone interested in helping can come to a work party Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m. Bill and Louise Winder of Winlock have been coming to the weekly work parties at the garden for several weeks now. Louise is a retired school bus driver and though they have no children in the district, the couple said they liked the idea of the community working together to create a learning opportunity for local young people.
“We think it would be nice to get the community together for something positive,” Louise Winder said.
For assistance with creating a sustainable program and garden, Spalding said she has turned to organizations such as the Lower Columbia School Gardens as well as Toledo school gardens. Much further into the future, Spalding hopes through grant funding to secure grant funding to pay for a staff member to oversee the Winlock Community Garden. She explained the Lower Columbia School Gardens has a staff of six that oversee about 19 school garden sites, which allows teachers to focus on using the gardens for education and doesn’t burden them with upkeep.
“We’re not recreating the wheel, we’re just trying to bring it to Winlock,” Spalding said. “We have some lofty goals for our garden but they’re attainable and they’re being done in other areas.”
Spalding’s wider three-year plan for the Winlock Community Garden is to expand the plot to create an edible “food forest.” She said she is working with the Winlock School District now to determine how much space the district can allow her to use. Raintree Nursery in Mossyrock has already donated the trees, she just needs to make a plan. Spalding said she is also hoping to secure the funds to purchase or donations of garden tools as well as a shed to keep them in as at the moment she is hauling her own gardening tools to and from the space each week. She said she would also eventually like to have a greenhouse at the community garden to allow for year-round growing.
“We want this project to be bigger than our organization,” Spalding said. “We want everyone involved sharing the burden and the wealth that comes with it.”
Winlock Community Garden
Located at Winlock High School, 241 N. Military Road
Work parties held 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays