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  • CENTRAL POINT

    Grange Co-Op garden helps feed the hungry

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  • CENTRAL POINT — Hoping to be good neighbors and taking advantage of a ready supply of gardening equipment, coordinators of the Grange Co-Op community garden say this year's yield will be the biggest to date.
    The only one of ACCESS Food Share's seven garden locations to be provided by a local company, and an entity other than a church or community group, the sunny spot at the corner of Ash and South First streets is expected to yield close to 2,400 pounds of produce this year.
    ACCESS coordinators say they hope the concept of donating garden space catches on.
    With 25 food banks, the community has a definite need.
    In its sixth year, the garden space is the result of a team effort between Grange Co-Op volunteers, Bicoastal Media team and local master gardeners and ACCESS volunteers who help maintain the garden, prepare the soil and provide planting, weeding, watering and harvesting help.
    Central Point Grange Co-Op store manager Norm Rush said the garden comprising a collection of 18 raised beds is a prime example of creating something positive where once products and supplies were stored.
    City code changes meant the spot could no longer be used for that purpose, Rush said.
    "Basically the city zoning required it not be used for commercial purposes anymore so we got to thinking about how we could put the corner to use and make this something beneficial and positive," Rush said.
    "Considering the nature of our business, it just made sense to us to put a garden out here. We seem to have a pretty good supply of things you'd need for a garden and we even have vendors helping us out with soil and plants."
    Now brimming with beds full of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, peppers and squash, the garden has grown each year.
    In 2010, 1,400 pounds of produce were provided to area food pantries.
    Rush said volunteers hope this year will surpass 2013 totals of 2,100 pounds.
    "We're shooting for 2,400," he said, noting that 750 pounds had already been harvested in recent weeks.
    ACCESS nutrition programs coordinator Philip Yates said the garden was unique in that a private business had initiated the donation.
    A half-dozen other gardens that provide the same service, Yates noted, are situated in public or community spaces or next to churches.
    Yates said one of the seven gardens, near the OSU Extension Center on Hanley Road, is out of commission for the current season, so the Grange Co-Op garden's annual increase would be put to good use.
    Yates said the ACCESS gardens, also situated in Rogue River, Medford, White City and Gold Hill, yielded 60,000 pounds of produce last year.
    Yates said fresh produce is an important part of providing healthy food options for needy families.
    "We like to remind people that if they have extra produce and would like to donate it to our food banks, we would be very happy to see it," he said.
    "We distribute 60,000 pounds of food a week. Of that, 15-20,000 pounds are fresh produce. There is certainly plenty of need."
    On the web: http://www.accesshelps.org/Page.asp?NavID=370
    Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com
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