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Emily's Garden

PHOENIX — On a patch of raw earth, beyond a small sign declaring "Emily's Garden" is the soon-to-be site of the Faull family harvest.

Grandmother, mother and granddaughter have lovingly tended to their own plots in the Blue Heron Community Garden for several months, tilling soil, putting in borders and planting rows of corn, peas, green chili, bell peppers, tomatoes, leeks and brussels sprouts.

A few small steps away, in her own 3-by-3-foot spot, 6-year-old Emily is nurturing a select harvest.

"It's her personal project and she chose to just grow lettuce," said DeeJaye Faull, Emily's mom.

"From a very young age, if she could have proclaimed herself a vegetarian she would have. And she's in a family of carnivores."

One of several dozen garden families at the 4-year-old spot, the Faull family uses the 18-by-18-foot plot to grow organic food for the family, something they've always enjoyed.

As added bonuses to community gardening, families share ideas and expertise, develop friendships and have occasional classes and potluck dinners.

Coordinator Mary Foster, a retired educator who built the garden four years ago with help from area foster kids and a grant from the Carpenter Foundation, said the community garden provides space for city dwellers to plant veggies and flowers and to encourage organic gardening.

"In this day and age, people don't even know their neighbors anymore, let alone have room to garden," Foster said.

"We try to teach that you're only borrowing that piece of ground, so you really have to take care of it for the guy who comes after you "¦ it's all a focus on healthy organic food. The air is great and the sunsets are fantastic."

In Ashland, the idea surfaced around the same time in recent years and has increased in popularity with each growing season. Community garden space at North Mountain Park Nature Center usually sports a waiting list of would-be gardeners.

"We have people come in all the time and say, 'Gosh, we just moved here and this is the way we communicate with other people in the community," said stewardship coordinator Linda Chesney.

"I think the idea of community gardening is successful for a combination of reasons. There's a sense of community in a community garden you wouldn't get on your own. There's opportunity to learn different techniques. We see people who come and garden with their children and they're all learning organic methods and sustainability."

For her part, Emily is learning to grow part of the family's summer nutrition. Her love of vegetables, her mother surmises, comes from being part of the family garden since she was quite small.

"She usually looks more like a fairy than she does a gardener," Faull said.

"But she's been around gardening since she was teeny-tiny. We've always had gardens so she really enjoys being out here."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.

Emily’s garden is divided into two parts with a walkway down the middle. A lettuce farmer, she shares space with her mom and grandmother. - Bob Pennell