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Community First! Gardens Project to host winter forum

Nov 12th, 2010 | Category: Growing

by Becca Schwarz Cole

The Community First! Gardens Project through WSU Whatcom County Extension supports neighborhoods in creating and maintaining community gardens where residents can grow their own food. The Project is hosting an event in December designed to celebrate the current community gardens in Whatcom County, but also offer information to others interested in getting started.

The Lynden Community Garden in Whatcom County.

In addition to helping to grow food, the Project’s goals include providing opportunities for environmental education and stewardship of land, and to help create neighborhood gathering places, while fostering cooperative, community-building relationships within neighborhoods.
The Project will host a Community Garden Forum on Wednesday, Dec. 8 from 5-8 p.m. at the Bellingham Community Food Coop Cordata Store. The event is open to those involved with community gardens in Whatcom County and to anyone interested in learning more about community gardens, including how to start one, fundraising, seed saving, equipment and more. Any resident wanting to attend  should RSVP Coordinator Beth Chisholm at
According to Chisholm, the project started in 2008.  “In the first two years of the project we have helped fund and support five community gardens,” she said. “Those being Ferndale Friendship Garden, Everson Community Garden, Cordata Community Garden, Lydia Place and Sterling Paz Community Garden.”
The newest applicants for funding include Sudden Valley and Maple Falls.
All of the gardens included in the project have been created in the last two or three years. The type of support community gardens receive through the Project include assistance with the design, planning and budgeting, as well as soil consultation, layout and financial assistance for purchasing items such as hoophouses, raised beds, soil, tools, seeds, starts, and other items. Monetary assistance can be as high as $5,000.
“Initially WSU set out to fund one neighborhood garden per year for five years awarding $5,000 to each,” Chisholm said. “Now that we have been at it for a couple years we are seeing the need to disperse the limited funds around and provide more assistance in the form of smaller amounts.”
A next step includes partnering with other organizations and finding additional grants to assist in the formation and longevity of community gardens.
“We also can provide Master Gardener advisors to any community garden,” she said.
The Mary Redman Foundation is a main financial supporter of the Project. “In response to interest in locally grown, nutritious food and in the interest of helping neighborhoods build community, Drew Betz, Colleen Burrows and Jill Cotton at Washington State University Whatcom County Extension and Mary Redman began discussing the need for more” community gardens, Chisholm stated.
Mary Redman, a Whatcom County resident and the Foundation’s President, partnered with WSU Whatcom County Extension to create Community First! Gardens. “How exciting to be part of the growing movement to bring healthy, nutritious food into our community,” she said. “Through this project we hope to improve the quality of life for people in Whatcom County. [It is] a catalyst for community development and social interaction, as we work together toward the common goals of a sustainable, local food economy and self-sufficiency.”
Redman has provided grants to many food and community related groups.
Applicants should be community-based groups able to demonstrate the need for a community garden in their area, and also form a leadership committee to work directly with the WSU project team. Guidelines for proposals and other details are listed on the Project’s website at

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