Garden Project looking for more volunteers for picking and harvesting
August 19, 2016
Gila River Indian News
The Community Garden Project has come a long way in a short period of time, but it still has a long way to go. To boost involvement, project managers are asking Community members for more help and offering gardening classes.
In May, the Gila River Health Care Life Center and the Gila River Indian Irrigation & Drainage District implemented grant funding to create a garden run for Community members, by Community members.
In only two and a half months, the garden has produced a number of squash, corn, beans, and chilies. The garden also has a new chain link fence to keep out pests.
Norman Wellington, an agriculturalist from District 4, was hired to manage the community garden. He received a considerable amount of help from three young hands, who worked at the garden for seven weeks during the school summer break through the Employment & Training Department’s WIOA Youth Summer Program.
Some of the yellow squash have already produced a bountiful harvest, said Wellington. “The kids were taking them home. [Others] were taking home squash on a daily basis.”
Earlier in the summer, a number of volunteers gave the garden a jump-start by planting and moving earth. More recently, people have gone to the garden to pick ripe squash.
“There are people that have come through and asked to pick,” said Wellington. “A couple groups, the kids that worked [here for the] summer, their families came through, and...there was a group from...the LDS (Latter Day Saints) church that came through.”
Other plants need a little more help and a little more time. The plants have had a tough time developing at a normal pace because they were planted too late in the season.
Sonny Nieto, the GRIIDD agricultural specialist said due to delays in the preparation of the garden area, they were behind by almost a month and a half. They would have liked to plant in mid-March, but didn’t get started until May. “Hopefully next year we’ll be able to plant on time,” he said.
But Nieto and Wellington are expecting a resurgence from the garden with slightly cooling temperatures and the monsoon rains.
Looking at the tomato plants, Nieto said, “When it starts cooling off, they’ll blossom again, and start producing again – and the chilies too. We could see a second crop.”
They are hopeful that volunteers will return as well.
Recently, community participation has dropped. Garden Project administrators are asking for volunteers to help clean up the garden, prepare it for harvesting, and pick the vegetables when they are ready, which should be in a few weeks.
Nieto, Wellington and retired agricultural specialist Bob Sotomayor will begin hands-on gardening lessons open to all Community members beginning Saturday, August 20. Subsequent classes are planned for Saturdays, Sept. 3, 17, and 24. Each class will cover a different aspect of gardening. Classes will be held at the Hu Hu Kam Memorial Hospital’s Diabetes Support Center in Building 11.
GRIIDD also offers free gardening soil and seed to Community members. To contact the Community Garden Project, call (520) 610-2646.