BRIGHAM CITY – Jenny Hill and some friends took a couple of acres of weeds next to her church and developed nearly half of it into a well-organized, fenced and gated community garden. In the place of weeds, there are now nearly 70 beds of varied-size raised garden boxes, a high tunnel, and a couple of small in-ground gardens. Last year alone, the garden produced 3,600 pounds of fresh produce for the local food pantry.
“I asked permission from the Holy Cross Lutheran Church I attended if I could turn the lot next to the church that was full of weeds and make a community garden out of it,” the retired Registered Nurse said. “I’ve been going to church there since my family moved here when I was three years-old.”
When they gave her permission to use the property six years ago, she started to write for grant money to support her vision. Each garden box has a plaque to show who donated the money to build it. There are even some memorial gardens from people who have lost loved ones and wanted to donate money for a plot as a tribute to them.
“Everyone who has a garden here is required to eat what they grow and donate the rest to a charity,” she said.
Each garden box is assigned to a family or an organization who has agreed to plant it, care for it, harvest it, eat what they harvest then give the rest away to a charity.
“l volunteer as the administrator to do this. It is a non-profit. Everything is done by volunteers,” Hill said. “A four by twenty foot plot costs $15, and participants must conform to the rules, attend an orientation, pull their own weeds and harvest the crops in a timely manner.”
Participants are expected to clean up their space at the end of the season and put compost on the bed for the next year.
“A lot of the people that use the garden are apartment dwellers,” she said. “Some of them want to use the garden because they need more room than their back yard has to offer, and some of the people are elderly and want to have a raised bed to work in.”
Her fundraising efforts have paid off. The fenced off area has a pavilion with picnic tables and barbeque grill, a message board and a small library with gardening donated by the USU extension.
“I have capitalized on relationships I have formed from living here all of my life,” she said. “It was incredible to see how generous people can be.”
The gates were donated by Tarter Gate, out of Corinne. The big entrance arch was donated by Vulcraft and all of the concrete and footings by Staker-Parson.
“It was eye-opening. People will donate their time. Service groups and community groups will all come and help,” Hill said. “It is one of the neat little things about the community I grew up in.”
The Community Garden folks don’t have to worry about people wanting to use the plots. All of them are taken every season; in fact, there is a waiting list.
Usually, about 30 families have plots as well as other groups, like a group home of mentally disabled residents and 4-H Boys and Girls Clubs.
“Utah State University Extension has been great to work with,” she said. “They help us with advice, grants and questions. It has been a good to work with them.”
Whenever Hill had an idea, it was her husband Doral who carried out a lion’s share of the project. His fingerprints are on a lot of boxes and under his fingernails there is bound to be some compost. Whenever she looked at something in the garden, she noted it was Doral’s handywork.
“We have a drip system and about every morning I walk the area and look for leeks,” she said. “The drip system is very fragile, but economical.”
One of the new beds is a pumpkin bed for a fall activity.
There is a coalition of non-profits that meet once a month to talk about what activities are coming up.
“All of the groups are non-profits and we talk about what’s going on in our group,” she said. “Every fall they have a pumpkin event, and this year we are growing the pumpkins.”
Just like the plants in the raised beds, the Box Elder Community Garden continues to grow. There is room for more garden beds and she would like to have a butterfly garden sometime in the future.