Meet our gardeners
Urban gardens provide a chance to grow food, but also to learn, purge stress and connect with others. Hear what gardens mean to those who participate in them.
Menlo Park Elementary
Located in the David Douglas School District—an East Portland district where the student body speaks more than 70 languages— Menlo Park Elementary serves more than 500 K-5 students. Last fall, the school and community came together to build an Enchanted Garden in the school courtyard, which includes mounded beds dedicated to Grow Portland's Garden School program. All students at the school are getting monthly science lessons in this space.
Grow Portland participates in the East Metro STEAM Partnership, which brings educators, industry and nonprofits together to create STEAM (science-technology-engineering-arts-math) opportunities in the East Metro area. This video showcases their work and our garden school program at Menlo Park.
Originally from the Congo, Maria moved here eight years ago with seven of her children. Her children now attend local schools and colleges and several of them work alongside Maria in her garden space at the East County garden in Gresham.
Maria learned to grow food in the Congo and is adjusting to gardening here in the Pacific Northwest. Several other Congolese families participate in this garden, and together they are growing some crops they know well and learning to grow some less familiar ones. Maria's skill is evident in her garden, and she says being the garden "just makes me so happy."
Tatyana gardens at the Floyd Light Community Garden near her home in East Portland. An immigrant from Russia, Tatyana is now a case worker for Lutheran Family Services and as a Grow Portland lead gardener, helps other gardeners − especially those who have recently immigrated from former Soviet republics − adjust to gardening here.
Says Tatyana, "Gardening means a lot to me. It is my time to enjoy sunshine, to communicate with others, to participate in the developing of community, and to support other gardeners. It is my time to exercise, relax and relieve stress. . . to watch how things grow and to be with the harmony of nature: with my plants, birds, bees and the earth."
Chief Joseph Elementary students
Chief Joseph Elementary School in North Portland piloted our Garden School program in winter of 2015, and students there will continue their garden education this year. Between 350-400 kids − every classroom from Kindergarten up − get hands-on lessons about science and healthy eating each month in their school garden. Says one student about learning in the garden, "When your hands get dirty, it means that you're having lots of fun."
Garden School will expand into a seventh school this year. Learn more about this program.
A retired James-Beard-trained chef, Ron has been the lead gardener at our Eastminster Community Garden for several years. He has three large plots at the garden and raises more than a thousand pounds of food each year for local charities that address food insecurity.
Ron is an active East Portland resident, head of the Russell neighborhood association and a member of Parkrose United Church of Christ, Grow Portland's land partner at this community garden. Recently, in partnership with the Portland Fruit Tree Project, Ron helped build a community orchard that surrounds the community garden. He has been key in making this church property − located at a bustling intersection at Halsey and 122nd − a vibrant, food-growing oasis "to get locally grown food to people who need it."
ORCHWA (the Oregon Community Health Worker Association) was founded in 2011 to support community health workers by providing a forum to share resources, provide networking and training opportunities, and promote collaboration. This year in one such ORCHWA collaboration, a group of health workers brought a small community of immigrants and minorities to the Eastminster Community Garden "to grow healthy food together."
Bhutanese, African, Micronesian and Native American families are participating in the garden through ORCHWA. The community health workers and more experienced gardeners in each of these groups are coaching those who are learning to grow food.