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Color in the winter livens Luscher Farm

New mural livens up Children's Garden at Luscher Farm
by: CLIFF NEWELL, 
Hillary Lowenberg has successfully combined art and agriculture with the giant mural in the Children’s Garden at Luscher Farm.

A lush and blooming place in the spring and summer, Luscher Farm fades to gray in the fall and winter.

But Hillary Lowenberg has come up with a wonderful way to liven the place up - a huge, colorful mural in the Children's Garden.

The garden's coordinator since April, Lowenberg said, 'It's my baby, my project. It did take awhile. A lot of pieces had to come together. But I wanted to get art into the garden. It fosters a sense of place and ownership.'

Lowenberg had 'no experience in carpentry and designing,' but she proved to be a gifted organizer by bringing all of the pieces together by gathering donated materials and attracting volunteers. Many of those volunteers were the very children she is trying to reach - her 'Farmhands.'

She also wasn't afraid to get her own hands dirty. Lowenberg dug holes, laid cement, used an electric saw for the first time in her life, and hammered in lots of nails.

A big key was finding muralist Addie Boswell, who said, 'I would love to do it.'

Boswell did the outline, then volunteers and children did the painting throughout the summer. The big day was the Harvest Painting Party.

'We painted all day and ate the apple pie that I made,' said Lowenberg. 'All of the kids were in the garden and it was really, really fun. We had 25 kids, five volunteers, two parents, and me. The younger kids were running around like it was an Easter egg hunt. It was really a beautiful day. By 5 o'clock we were finished.

'I think the mural adds some much-needed color to a place that can be very dreary in the cold winter months. I'm excited it's going to be a permanent piece here.

'I hope it's only the beginning.'

A career working in agriculture would seem to be an unusual choice for a young woman who grew up among the statues, monuments and giant buildings of Washington, D.C. When she enrolled at the University of Vermont, Lowenberg originally desired to earn a degree in anthropology.

However, an environmental studies class 'really opened my eyes and changed my world.' After working on a youth farm in Burlington, Vt., Lowenberg decided she didn't want to be an anthropologist.

'I knew that growing food and being the middle person between the environment and people was really important to me,' Lowenberg said. 'Supporting local agriculture and food became really important to me. Especially in urban environments.'

After getting her degree in 2007, Lowenberg found just what she was looking for in Luscher Farm, a gem of a farm in an urban setting. Not only that, but it had space specifically designated for children.

'The city's foresight in having natural space for children is so important,' Lowenberg said. 'It is wonderful working here, having this space.'

The big mural is just an example of Lowenberg's big thinking about educating children at Luscher Farm. She has only five Farmhands now, but she is planning on getting a whole lot more as she builds her program - tours, field trips, classes, camps - at the Children's Garden.

These kids are actually helping Lowenberg find her own way in life.

'I've been trying to understand my role here and what I want the garden to be,' she said. 'Now it is a beacon. It is a space for children to come, play and learn.

'I've found my calling and my passion.'

Those donating materials to the Children's Garden mural were the Rebuilding Center of Portland, Clark Lumber of Tualatin, and Jim Sanders of the city of Lake Oswego's maintenance department. Volunteer constructors were Clay Neal and Alec Reinhardt.