'Blessed Garden' sprouts in place of state's food-stamp cuts
Senior citizens of the Gladstone Mobile Home Park are helping neighbors access fresh produce with their construction of two large greenhouses and garden plots.
In their first harvest this year, residents of the mobile-home park for people 55 and older grew at least 30 pounds each of cherry tomatoes, peas, beans and peppers. Amounts for cabbage and Brussels sprouts are still being tallied because theyve been able to harvest these hardy vegetables even during the recent December freeze.
Retired landscaper Richard Schooley has lived in the complex since 2004 and has been getting out of his mobile home more frequently in the past six months to help with the project. Schooley, 76, now uses a walker to get around, but he says that he most enjoyed harvesting radishes, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.
Gardening has always been my treat, but I cant do it much anymore, he said.
Arnetta Guion, a mobile-home neighbor and certified master gardener through Oregon State University, came up with the idea when the state announced that it would be cutting everyones food-stamp benefits by at least $10 a month starting Nov. 1. She is most thankful that the project has helped those who used to enjoy gardening but may be unable to be as active as they once were.
Its about hope for them, Guion said. We began to help others by giving them some of our produce, but its also about helping them feel like they can keep a sense of dignity by helping themselves. ... In these uncertain times with social services being cut back, a person can still do something for their own physical and emotional well-being. And best of all, they will be helped by others in the community.
New sense of community
Schooleys garden neighbor Jennifer Roeseler helped them make holiday wreaths with their dried pepper plants. She calls her adjacent plot the Blessed Garden, while Guion calls the plot on her side of the complex the Garden of Weedin.
I like puns, but we all feel blessed to have had such a good crop this year, Guion said.
This whole area was agricultural until Gladstone began to develop it into a residential community during the 1950s. River Road was once called Market Road as it was the means of taking produce to Portland.
Gladstone Mobile Home Park is on the circa-1860s Rinerson donation land claim. After that land was divided into claims; the Read family established a thriving farm there above the Willamette River. Records show that in one year, the farm produced 1,133 bushels of carrots, and 41 tons or 263 pounds of rutabagas or turnips per acre.
Now the land is back in the family, and Reads grandson was inspired to establish the two greenhouses with several raised beds in memory of his grandfathers heritage. The Reads have appreciated how the garden has proven to be a uniting factor in creating a new sense of community as residents grow food and flowers for themselves; get to know their neighbors; and share garden talk as well as the produce they grow.
Other residents who have been key in the creation of the garden include Jeannine Shockman, Kim Baller and Tamara Dinsmore. They are planning a second-annual tomato festival the second week of August and will announce details closer to the time.