Robinwood Station garden thrives thanks to volunteers

by: VERN UYETAKE - Volunteer Amy Schauer shovels soil from a plant bed at the Robinwood Station garden Monday. Though it is the heart of winter and there is a chill to the air, things are growing and blooming at the Robinwood Station garden — like friendships, community, sustainability and a sense of service.

Children and adults alike played in the dirt at the garden Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Volunteers helped construct a retaining wall, remove a garden bed to make room for a new greenhouse, prepare soil and conduct general maintenance.

The Robinwood Station Community Center, located at 3706 Cedaroak Drive, opened in 2010 and is managed by the Friends of Robinwood Station. Last year, with a HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) grant from Clackamas County, 22 AmeriCorps volunteers from Confluence Environmental Center helped build two wheelchair-accessible raised garden beds and four other raised beds to launch a garden.

In 2012, garden members grew nearly 1,000 pounds of produce and donated about 100 pounds to the West Linn Food Pantry. Planting the seeds of community, the garden continues to grow.

Lisa Clifton, Robinwood garden coordinator, hopes the garden continues to flourish this year. With a new $7,800 HEAL grant, it is sure to be a bumper crop. The garden group will use the funding to promote education through children’s classes and a children’s garden club, as well as upgrades to the garden.

The children’s classes will run the second Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. February through September, with a harvest party in October. For $5 a class, children will learn about plant lifecycles, bugs, worms and composting, as well as about all aspects of gardening. Class topics include sunflowers, corn, potatoes, berries, tomatoes and edible flowers.

“I really want to get kids excited about gardening and edible gardening in particular,” Gabrielle Belmore, the garden’s education coordinator, said. by: VERN UYETAKE - Liam Schauer, 9, left, and Kiley Baker, 9, dig up carrots from a plant bed.

Belmore got involved in the garden last year after hearing some moms at Cedaroak Park Primary School talking about it.

“I was looking for a garden,” she said, explaining that she currently lives in a condo with no outdoor space for her 6-year-old daughter. “I feel this has become her yard, her playground. There’s something magical about it.”

For $20 a year per family, the garden club has a series of weekly meetings that focuses on hands-on gardening with pint-size tools and journals for children to record growth in their own dedicated garden bed. Kids will learn about plant life, the food chain and organic food.

Belmore said she hopes more families get involved in the co-op community garden this year.

“Connecting with your community is just a wonderful experience,” she said. “I hope we can grow a community as well as a garden.”

At the garden, grant funds are also being used to purchase and erect a 6-foot-by-16-foot greenhouse; install a deer fence; add soil fertility with a worm bin; and install a harvest table to improve the harvesting process.

Clifton said the greenhouse will be good for children’s classes when the weather is colder.

“It’s bigger than we imagined,” she said. “I think it will be a great space for us to utilize.”

On Monday, West Linn resident Jay Schauer came with his two sons to volunteer at the garden. “We were just looking for something to do on MLK Day,” he said.

Other volunteers represented area families, garden members and Boy Scouts.

Six-year-old Andrew Rodriguez said it felt good to help out on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “I like to do the shoveling and dig in the dirt,” he said.

Kiley Baker, 9, also helped volunteer. She said the garden was important to help keep people healthy. “You can learn about growing vegetables and fruit,” she said. “It’s fun. We have friends here.”

Looking around her, Belmore expressed gratitude for all the volunteers.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was just an important part of our history. To be here, to honor him on this day, is just meaningful.”

By the end of January, garden members hope to have the greenhouse erected. In February, seeds will be started in the greenhouse, the group will host a seed exchange, a worm bin will be built, the harvest table will be constructed and the garden club and classes will begin.

For more information about Robinwood Station and its garden, visit > VERN UYETAKE - Ken Clifton cleans off recycled cement blocks to be used for a retaining wall along the Robinwood Stations driveway.

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