Emmaus garden project offers free garden plots to the community

By: Carol Percy, Reporter Lincoln News Messenger
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Lori Tracy and Angela Henning came up with a grant venture to create “Community in the Garden,” a communal organic garden project offering free planting plots to residents.

Tracy, the project’s coordinator, is on the board of the Emmaus Church Community that sponsors the garden. She and Henning “were inspired to help the Lincoln community during difficult financial times,” according to Tracy.

“Lincoln was hit especially hard with foreclosures and job losses in the economic downturn,” Tracy said. “We have seen how losses like that can create a sense of apathy and how community spirit dwindles in such times. A community garden felt like a chance to rekindle community pride and allow us to reach out and connect with those in our community, as well as helping them connect with each other.”

Located on a 5-acre property at 1389 Virginiatown Road, the garden is fully funded by grants. In addition to the plot, everything a gardener needs is provided: water, organic fertilizers, plant food, natural pesticides, and gardening tools.

Every plot has its own drip lines which run on a master timer, Tracy added.

Plots are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. When residents sign up for a lot, they are required to pay for their own plants (some plants are provided free of charge) and to weed and care for them but help is available.

Jacob Henning, Henning’s son, is a gardening intern on the project and troubleshoots daily plant care issues that may arise. He maintains the watering system and assists plot owners who may have trouble with garden pests. He also attends to plots while residents are on vacation, Tracy said.

Although plots are open year-round, planting starts in April and gardeners are asked to “winterize” their plot—remove all plants and weeds--by the end of September. Winter gardens are available beginning in August, Tracy said.

Crops are harvested by individual plot owners but excess crops are dropped off at The Salt Mine in Lincoln, Tracy said.

Tracy said that one advantage of the garden is that community members “who may feel isolated can come to the garden and connect with people working toward a mutual goal.”

“Gardening has long been a source of stress relief for many,” Tracy said. “As people were forced from their homes into smaller spaces, many didn’t have the space or could not afford their own garden.  We offer our site as a way to indulge in that simple pleasure.”

Funding for the garden is from a 2011 Placer County “Wellness Grant,” according to Henning. Tracy credits Henning with coming up with the idea of a garden open to the community. In 2012, they received an additional $5,000 that allowed them to expand from 10 to 15 garden plots.

With the extra funds, they purchased a shed and built an outdoor deck/seating area and a fire pit, Henning said.

Henning is the project’s master gardener and an English teacher at Sierra College and William Jessup University. She said the project offers the community a way to tend their own garden and provides fresh fruits and vegetables for their labors.

“The garden is both practical and social. It provides healthy fresh produce while giving the community a chance to interact,” Henning said.

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