A community garden that doesn’t need the feds’ help

Ed Cannard picks raspberries at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church's community garden.
Ed Cannard picks raspberries at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church's community garden.
While working on a story about islander and congressman Jay Inslee’s proposed community garden grant program, I visited the 22 plots at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church.
After 21 years, it remains the only community garden in Winslow. It’s open to all – not just church congregants – but the long wait list is daunting.

I’ve seen few community gardens that are so well-kept and cared for. Whereas many community gardens have a few fallow plots and weeds creeping between raised beds, the church’s garden, with its many teak garden benches and stone ornaments, seemed bursting with healthy vegetables and flowers. There’s a reason community gardens aren’t always pretty. They’re practical places; not rose gardens. But the church’s garden seemed a combination of both: pleasing in its appearance and utilitarian in its purpose.

Much of the credit is due to the gardeners, who must sometimes wait up to three years for a plot. If you’re willing to cross your fingers that long, you’re not likely to squander the opportunity when you get it. Credit also goes to the garden’s volunteer keeper, Ed Cannard. He’s gardened there for almost all of its 21 years. As the garden’s manager, Cannard is tough. If you’re not taking care of your plot, you’re out fairly quickly and someone else on the long wait list is invited in.

Cannard said Inslee’s bill, which would provide up to 80 percent reimbursement for community garden development, wouldn’t help his garden much. Money, he said, isn’t what’s made Eagle Harbor church’s garden flourish for over two decades. It’s more about the people who volunteer their time to make it a success.

At the same time, though, Cannard sees demand for community gardens is sharply rising, and his small garden can’t come close to meeting local demand. While the Bainbridge park district has talked about possibly expanding their community garden offerings beyond the Battle Point Park patch, local nonprofits and private landowners have moved quickly in recent months to establish several gardens around the island. The new gardens are built largely with donated materials, donated land and volunteer labor.

And, judging by the 25 comments that have so far streamed in about Inslee’s bill, that’s the way it should be.

Most commenters on the online story see grant-funded community gardens as unnecessary and a waste of tax dollars during a time when the government is piling on debt.

Here’s a few comments posted to the online story:

“Another backwards Islander forcing socialism and fruitcake politics down our throats.”

“Which part of the constitution authorizes the federal government to fund vegetable gardens?”

“If you want an ‘alternative’ then that would be to shake the pockets of all those Doctors and Lawyers over there. A ‘community garden’ should be a privately or community funded…. as the name would suggest; ‘community.'”

“Mr Inslee, I hate to tell you but the country is broke from the bailouts. Obamanomics have failed and grants/handouts etc… cannot be afforded. Please start cutting social programs to payoff the debt.”

Inslee’s proposal is not without its backers. Here’s one commenter’s take:

“Americans can’t wait 3 years for the ‘Cannards’ of the world to provide a solution to what this country needs now…Thanks Jay Inslee for working for us. Thanks for supporting Victory Gardens.”

What do you think? Could Inslee’s proposal help meet Bainbridge’s demand for community gardens? And what about other communities that may not have the wide-spread support for community gardens or the deep pockets that have helped make them happen here. And the overall question: should the feds even be involved?

5 thoughts on “A community garden that doesn’t need the feds’ help

  1. Tristan, you should know better, the commenters are typically trolls who only believe what Rush Limbaugh tells them to believe. These are not a fair consensus of the majority voters. If it was, McCain would be president and no one would be talking about Health Care.

  2. Craig P,

    It may be true that a lot of commenters are trolls. And many are off-island. That’s part of the reason I bring this up here, on the Bainbridge Conversation, to see what islanders think about Inslee’s bill.

  3. Posted by BainbridgeClearCut on July 23, 2009 at 5:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

    Jay who? Do I hear another hog call for Bainbridge and other neighborhoods with this silly proposal? Jay Who must learn that taxpayers want sanity and not another wasteful project. Citizens have mustered resources from volunteer groups for gardens. Thanks, Jay Who, for trying to help spend money but no thanks.

    Jay Who, tell us again about the bio-fuel wonder plan you pushed? Tell us, Jay Who, how it managed to push world hunger and not your Prius.

  4. Craig P: did you apply to be a Sun blogger hall monitor making sure all comments comport with your sense of value? Isn’t it terrible that we all can’t be of the group think.

    Good editorial from Kitsap Sun. Hope Jay Who reads it and stops with the waste.

Comments are closed.