Volunteers from across the county toiled in 86-degree heat Saturday to turn a dreary patch of pavement into a thriving community garden outside the Medford Gospel Mission.

Volunteers from across the county toiled in 86-degree heat Saturday to turn a dreary patch of pavement into a thriving community garden outside the Medford Gospel Mission.

The project was part of a leadership class sponsored by the Medford Chamber of Commerce. The goal was to reach out to the community through volunteer efforts to improve a section of the city.

Volunteers used $10,000 in gardening materials donated by Naturalyards of Talent. The result was 7,000 square feet of raised garden beds where once barren pavement butted against West Jackson Street.

"This is like a community park that will serve a purpose," said Ken Ogden, an architect with Ogden Roemer Wilkerson Architecture in Medford.

The veggies grown in the beds will feed mission patrons, Ogden said.

"This will grow a tremendous amount of food," he said. "It will also create a really vibrant street front."

The community garden will be the future site of gardening classes that will be open to the public.

"We want people to learn how to grow food in their own backyards," Ogden said. "They will also learn to prepare the food and can it for storage."

The garden will be staffed with volunteers throughout the summer. Mission residents also will work the beds to produce food for the local homeless population.

The original plan called for a 6-foot fence surrounding the garden, but Ogden decided to forgo the fence to create a more open environment.

"I researched it and found that these gardens are rarely vandalized in cities across the country," he said. "People seem to have respect for food."

As volunteers put the finishing touches on the garden beds outside the mission Saturday, Tamara Hammond and her daughter, Rozi, worked a few blocks away at Fifth and Ivy streets, pulling the weeds out of their 10-by-10-foot food patch.

The Hammonds rent the bed at the community garden, which features rows of beds that are available for a $25 fee for the entire year.

Hammond said community gardens fill a need in Medford.

"It gets people out of their houses and growing food for themselves," she said. "This garden has brought this neighborhood together. People stop by and strike up conversations with strangers. It's great for the community."

Hammond said she grew up on a farm, but drifted away from an agrarian lifestyle. She recently returned to gardening after her life took a series of tough turns last year.

She said the garden has done much to bring her family closer together.

"It did so much good for my relationship with my son," she said. "We would come out here and work together and grow this great food that fed the family."

Hammond grows eggplants, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, Anaheim peppers, acorn squash and other veggies on the plot.

"This little space produced so many batches of great salsa," she said.

All of the plots at the Fifth and Ivy site have been rented for the year, Hammond said.

She hopes more landowners who aren't using space throughout the city will turn it over to community gardens.

"Their are empty lots all over town," she said. "They could grow so much food on them."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.