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Garden tour helps seed the future

Schools foundation will benefit from tour and art sale
by: Jaime Valdez, Mia Bartlett plucks a fresh strawberry from the Supa Fresh garden in Tigard. The student farmers will give tutorials on growing backyard produce this Saturday at the garden tour, which supports the Foundation for Tigard-Tualatin Schools.

Tucked behind Durham Elementary School in Tigard, the 'Supa Fresh Youth Farm' is busier than ever.

Run by Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood high school students, the farm has made a name for itself the last few summers selling its produce at the Tualatin Farmers Market, and is now a featured stop at this year's Seeding Our Future Garden Tour and Art Show, this Saturday.

Held every year, the annual garden tour is one of the largest fundraisers for the Foundation for Tigard-Tualatin Schools, a special nonprofit organization that raises money for schools in the district.

This year's tour includes stops at seven gardens of various types and sizes across Tigard and Tualatin.

'For gardeners looking for inspiration, we have ornamental gardens and gardens full of whimsy, but (the Supa Fresh garden) is different,' said Phillipa Peach, garden tour spokeswoman. 'This is a vegetable-focused garden.'

Supa Fresh's small plot of land is run by teenagers as part of the Oregon Human Development Corporation, which provides teenagers with jobs and internships.

'There is a good connection between people that really care about greenspaces and children,' said Mia Bartlett, a career specialist with OHDC's youthsource program, which oversees the farm. 'It's a natural partnership.'

Now in its third year, local students spend months learning about organic farming and agriculture as they grow produce. That produce is then sold every Friday, from now through September at the Tualatin Farmers Market.

'It is a lot of work, it's constant,' Bartlett said. 'We are here two days a week every week throughout the year. It takes a lot to keep it looking like this.'

When the farm began three summers ago, the students raised only $400 at the Tualatin Farmers Market. The students raised more than $5,000 last year.

'They can clearly grow it, now they just need to grow more of it and sell it,' Bartlett said.

It's a big change from a group of students who, at first, had little knowledge of farming or even how plants grew, she said.

'A lot of these kids started out not knowing where potatoes come from,' Bartlett said. 'And they end up being really proud of their potato bed they grew themselves.'

The garden is a lush array of greens, vegetables and fruits.

During Saturday's garden tour, student-farmers will be on hand to lead tours around the farm, showing off their extensive flowerbeds and raised vegetable gardens and giving seminars about ways to grow produce at home.

The rain-or-shine garden tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Peach said. A free art show and plant sale at Durham Elementary School from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday will include plants, flowers, produce and food as well as handcrafted, garden-inspired art, including metal and stone sculptures, stained glass, jewelry and ceramics from Northwest artists.

Tickets to the tour are $20, but entrance to the Supa Fresh garden is free as part of the plant sale and art show.

The farm serves as a 'safe haven' training tool for students, Bartlett said.

'Our hope is that the community will come out and see this farm and what these students have accomplished and want to help support them,' Bartlett said.

The farm has also caught on with Durham Elementary School teachers, Bartlett said, many of whom have used the garden as part of their lesson plannning or as a fun place to read with students.

The farm is run on government funding, which has been cut back in recent years, and community donations. Bartlett said being included in the annual garden tour is a good way to raise awareness about the farm and gain supporters.

'We have gotten a lot of support from local businesses and garden centers, and we would love for the community to come out and see what students are doing and sponsor a kid,' she said.

It costs about $600 for one student to work on the farm during the summer. After working on the farm, Bartlett and others at OHDC help students find jobs and internships.

'Most of our students have a barrier to employment or college,' Bartlett said. 'They might be a parenting teen, have some juvenile justice involvement in their past or have some type of learning difficulty. Those are usually students who drop through the cracks.'

Proceeds from the garden tour and art show will help the foundation buy books, supplies, technology and fund programs across the school district.

Peach said the garden tour attracts lots of local gardeners and nature lovers, and often attracts a different part of the community than are normally involved with the foundation.

Tickets for the art tour are $20 and available at Al's Garden Center, Tigard and Tualatin high schools, and at the Art Show and Market Place on Saturday.

The art show, plant sale and Supa Fresh Youth Farm are located at Durham Elementary School, 7980 S.W. Durham Road, in Tigard.

To learn more about the garden tour, visit www.the-ftts.org .



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  • 22 Oct 2014

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