Community Gardens and the Bounty of Summer

luscher5Here in Lake Oswego we are blessed with the long, warm days of summer that come on the heals of the misty and rainy days of May and June.  The combination, along with personal commitment to gardening, leads to a rich bounty that is currently at its abundant peak.  I don’t know of a better place to see this, in all of its glory, than at the community garden at Luscher Farm.

Luscher Farm was purchased by the City of Lake Oswego between the years of 1991 and 1999.  It actually consists of 5 properties that when combined have an area of 47.71 acres.  The main farm, Luscher, is considered to be the most intact historic farm in Clackamas County.  Originally used as a dairy farm and for cattle, it was built at the turn of the century.  It is located just outside of the Southeast edge of the city at the corner of Stafford and Rosemont Roads.  It is now a public park that provides both recreation and educational opportunities for learing about farming, gardening, environmental education, and community supported agriculture.  And I am not talking about some hoity-toity experience where you drive up in your SUV and marvel at the cows and the chickens.  I’m talking about you and your family having a plot of land where you can nurture your own harvest and get dirt under your finger nails.

luscher1The community garden is just one part of Luscher Farm, but it is a high-light, for sure.

This year there are 188 garden plots being cultivated by individuals and families.  The plots are assigned by offering them to last year’s gardeners first, in November, and then any remaining plots are offered to the public in December.  The demand for the plots is large, so be in the game early if you want to reserve one for next year.  The prices I’m going to give are what was charged in 2009.  Prices for 2010 have not been determined, so there could be an increase.  But I believe that even with an increase it will still be a bargain.  Prices include access to a tool shed, where they have most anything you could imagine needing, organic fertilizer at the start of the season, and water.  A 10×20 plot is $47 for residents of LO and $52 for non-residents.  A 20×20 plot is $67 for residents of LO and $74 for non-residents.  There are also raised beds for older folks and people with disabilities who might have a hard time bending over to tend their garden.  The raised beds are $37 for residents and $41 for non-residents.  This fee is for the entire season and while you do have to go to your garden to do the watering, it does include the water.  Along with paying your fee, you are required to give 4 hours of your time to volunteer in the garden:  helping to build new plots (the garden gets expanded pretty much every year), weeding and mowing.

luscher2If you are not a returning gardener, but would like to have a garden plot next summer, I recommend that you call the City of Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department on December 1st to find out the date and time that the plots will be distributed.  In the past they were given out on a first-come-first-served basis and all plots were gone within an hour or two of being offered.  This year they are considering a lottery system, but that decision has not been made.  The phone number for Parks and Recreation at the City of Lake Oswego is 503-697-6500.

Besides the community garden, Luscher Farm has got some other very cool offerings.

The city works in cooperation with Oregon Tilth’s Organic Education Center to operate a demonstration garden that is all about showing people biologically sound urban agriculture.  It teaches about organic gardening and how to grow sustainable food.

luscher7Luscher Farm is also home to the Brewster Rogerson Clematis Collection.  You know clematis?  Those gorgeous vines with the unbelievably huge blossoms?  We have lots of clematis in LO.  Different varieties bloom at different times of the year with some even blooming in winter.  If you like to garden and you live in LO, you probably know about and love clematis.

And then there is the Community Supported Agriculture program.   This program consists of 12 acres that are cultivated and maintained by 47th Avenue Farms .  This is a co-op farming program.   It consists of 12 acres at Luscher Farms that are cultivated with a variety of vegetables for year-around consumption.  These include beets, brocolli, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, garlic, greens, herbs, kale, leeks, lettuce, onion, parsley, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, scallions, spinach, squash, and swiss chard.  Yum!  The produce is grown for a set number of harvest share holders.  These share holders buy into the bounty, but they also buy into the risk.  A late freeze or unusual storm can damage a crop.  So you become a share holder in the good and the bad.  Looking at the good, it means fresh grown organic produce that is locally sustainable for your palate and luscher6your good health.  In the summer shareholders pick up the bounty of the crops on a weekly basis.  In the late fall through early spring it is less frequent, but it still happens.  I visited the wesite for 47th Avenue Farms and found discriptions of various share options, but no specific pricing.  I would imagine that next year’s membership is still being formulated.  There is a link to a waiting list as well as for e-mailing to get information.  The website is www.47thavefarm.com .

Writing about all of the wealth of summer is making me hungry.  I think it’s time to go and to steam some brocolli!

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