Tim Paulitz, USDA ARS/WSU Department of Plant Pathology, 509-335-7077, email@example.com
Brian Clark and Nella Latizia, WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, 509-335-6967, firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring fair May 12: WSU faculty, staff, students give back to community with fruits of the earth
PULLMAN, Wash. - "I’m a plant freak!” said Tim Paulitz when asked why he gardens. Paulitz, a U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist and Washington State University Department of Plant Pathology faculty member, is a member of the board that runs the Pullman Community Garden.
The three-acre community garden, founded on the old Koppel Farm estate just off campus, is home to about 110 plots where a wide variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables are grown.
"Like a lot of people, we don’t have a lot of suitable gardening space at home, so I grow garlic and basil and some flowers at the community garden,” said Paulitz, who makes a much-enjoyed pesto from his produce. "It’s a great way to be outdoors and part of a community.”
The community of gardeners is self-supporting, maintaining the farmland with small fees for plot rentals and with a large contingent of volunteers. On May 12, volunteers and gardeners will host the garden’s annual spring fair and plant sale.
The free, public event will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and will feature displays from various community groups with ties to the garden. Entrance to the fair is at the corner of Derby Street and Professional Mall Boulevard.
Connecting with neighbors, nature
The garden has long had extensive ties to the Pullman community in general and to WSU faculty, staff and students in particular. Crop science graduate student Erik Landry, for instance, started working a plot at the garden in spring 2011 as a way to connect with the community.
"I enjoy the fact that it allows creativity and enables like-minded folks to get together and share knowledge about gardening on the Palouse,” Landry said. He preserves what he doesn’t eat fresh and saves the seed of heirloom and underutilized crop varieties from his plot.
Becky Phillips, a video editor with WSU Marketing and Creative Services, said gardening at Koppel Farm "makes me feel real again” after working inside on a computer all day. Phillips began gardening there four years ago and can walk to the garden at night from her apartment to pick from her rows of lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, carrots, beets, onions, scallions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, squash, pumpkins and Brussels sprouts. She shares her bounty with friends and family.
"It’s relaxing and healthy, and I love the fresh produce,” Phillips said. "There is something gratifying about nurturing a garden and watching it grow and produce. And it cuts about 50-60 percent off my grocery bill.”
The community garden has its own ecosystem, she added, with a variety of wildlife - and a variety of people.
"There are people from all over the world there, so you get to learn about Chinese chives, for instance,” Phillips said. "Or amaranth from your Bangladeshi neighbor. It restores a bit of America’s lost sense of community. People help each other out; there is a lot of camaraderie.”
Knowledge shared through generations
"Ultimately, I wanted to garden for our family but be a part of something bigger than myself,” said Francene Watson, a WSU graduate student in cultural studies and social thought in education.
"Gardening means many things to me,” she said. "I believe that it’s a necessary act, craft and art form, especially in our day and age. I believe that growing food is cultural knowledge that needs to be passed from one generation to the next. The garden symbolizes a learning space for all - and a place of satisfaction and community.”
Watson started at Koppel Farm because she wanted to learn more about gardening, which she did not do growing up. She grows kale, chard, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, winter squash, cherry tomatoes, herbs, arugula and different varieties of lettuce.
Volunteers tend food bank plots
She passes on her knowledge not only to her son, but also to students of all ages - from second-graders to adult community members. In addition, she volunteers much of her time for the garden’s community food bank plots.
Community gardeners maintain four food bank plots, Paulitz said.
"We donate produce to the Pullman Senior Center, Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse, the Community Action Center and the Pullman Food Bank on Nye Street,” he said. "The students and staffers at the WSU Center for Civic Engagement have helped a lot in keeping those plots productive.”
Paulitz said plots are available for the 2012 growing season. A 20-foot-square plot is $50 per year, and gardeners may keep the same plot from year to year. Gardeners interested in establishing a plot should contact the Pullman Community Garden through its website