Community oasis in a busy city

Story and photos by LEAH BEEHLER

The Wasatch Community Gardens prove that healthy living, eating, and growing in a city is not impossible.

A wide view from the new wood deck behind the walkway to the plant beds. The many beds provide the space for diverse seeds and plants.

“You don’t need to speak the same language as someone else, you don’t need to look the same or have the same background to be able to get your hands in the dirt and create something together,” said Georgina Griffith-Yates, the current executive director. Located at 600 E. 800 South in the central hub of Salt Lake City, the living oasis is focused on bringing the community together and growing local food, while also striving to educate.

The mission of the Gardens is to empower people to grow and eat healthy, organic, local food.

The Community Garden Program, Community Education Program, Youth and School Program, and the Job Training Program are the ways in which the Gardens accomplish that mission.

According to its website, the Community Garden Program is a way for the people in the community to “come and gain hands-on skills through [the] series of organic gardening workshops.” There are a total of 16 gardens throughout the county to apply what you learn during the workshops.

The Community Education Program targets not only real-life experience but also shares real knowledge of the food and how to grow it with the members of the community. It additionally focuses on hosting workshops and events that show people how to translate what they learn during classes to their home and how to make use of what they grow. “It is not just a get together — there is a lot of information provided to you and resources,” said Kerrie Toner, a member of the community and volunteer.

After the informative sessions and workshops, the Gardens provide many recipes to try yourself, how to perform a soil analysis with ingredients you have at home, and natural remedies that can help with colds and sickness.

“Another thing they offer is how to properly compost and get rid of pests naturally and organically,” Toner said.

Events and workshops are beneficial to the community because they are a chance to bring people together and build relationships. “Having in-person connection points, there is no substitute for that,” said Amber Nichols in a phone interview. Nichols is the outreach and volunteer director. Volunteering is a big part of the Wasatch Community Gardens and how it includes the community. If you are interested in volunteering, you can sign up by filling out the online form.

The goal for volunteers is to learn while also making sure they have fun. They are able to be there for a couple hours and offer services while learning about the plants, seeds, and soil.

Volunteers are able to plant seeds that will grow and later be available for purchase at the plant sale. They also work to beautify the gardens and harvest fruit.

Plants growing and becoming accustomed to the soil at Wasatch Community Gardens on 800 South.

The Youth and School Program is designed to teach kids about food and where food comes from. According to its website, “kids ages 4-12, are invited to learn in the [the] productive school garden program.”

Kids are encouraged to see that food is more than fast food. They have the power to take a small seed and grow something that is healthy and safe.

The Job Training Program is available to help women who are experiencing homelessness be reintegrated into a job setting and be hired once the program is over.

The program is a one-year-long process and is very beneficial for the participants and their futures. As well as helping the women get jobs, the Gardens also has a free pick zone for the community.

The free pick zone provides a source of clean fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and tomatoes, to people passing by and those who can’t afford organic produce from the grocery store, and kids in the community who are learning what they like.

The tomato easement at Wasatch Community Gardens. The gardens and plots are essential for food growth.

On the Gardens campus is a fully functioning kitchen that is used to cook meals and prepare food for the guests and volunteers. The food used and eaten is all grown at the campus.

Community outreach and happiness is a big importance for the Gardens. “They want to work with the community and are very community driven,” said Toner, a member of the community and volunteer.

There are many cultures and people in a large city. The gardens focus on the diverse histories of people, food, and agriculture. They do this by offering a different variety of plants and different land plots to adhere to history and culture.

The Wasatch Community Gardens is a great green, open space in a city and is a huge learning outlet. It is also a large benefit to the community by bringing them together, getting them out of the house, meeting new people, and learning new things that they can implement in their own homes and at-home gardens.