Get your garden going this spring with free help from Marion Polk Food Share

One of the 65 community gardens supported by Marion Polk Food Share in the greater Salem area (Courtesy/Marion Polk Food Share)

If this week’s sunshine has you thinking about getting outside, Marion Polk Food Share wants to help.

The organization is hosting “Celebrate the Seed,” a free seed share and gardening event this Saturday, March 7, to help both aspiring and experienced food growers get the season started.

Amy Joens, the food share’s community garden and education program coordinator, wants to make growing food accessible to everyone in Salem, even if they live in an apartment with no space to grow or can’t afford seeds.

“I love to be outside and it’s also really important to me to know where my food is coming from and to have healthy nutritious food available to me and my community,” she said.

Marion Polk Food Share usually puts on a seed exchange in early spring where people can pick up donated seeds for free.

This year is the 10th annual event, so Joens wanted to expand it to include more resources for gardeners.

She’s an avid gardener who recently grew her first crop of Brussel spouts and said gardening is a way to be outside doing something tactile while also building community.

“Usually there’s abundance in gardening, so I love to be able to share that with my family and friends and neighbors,” she said.

She reached out to Marion County Master Gardeners, Oregon State University Extension Services and other groups that work to educate gardeners to brainstorm common topics newer gardeners seek help on.

The result is a series of brief workshops throughout the day covering different methods of composting, a demonstration on making potting soil, gardening on a budget and reducing water and chemical use.

A schedule of specific times will be posted on the event’s Facebook page. Joens said a beginning gardening workshop will last about 45 minutes, and other classes around 15 minutes so people can drop in and out.

People with organizations supporting pollinators will hand out seeds to attract bees and butterflies, and some local farms will sell produce. The event will also have a tool repair station where people can get help fixing broken shovels or sharpening hoes and saws.

Through the food share, Joens helps support 65 community gardens across Marion and Polk counties which have about 1,000 people involved in growing food. 

She hopes the event will inspire people who might not have space at home to consider renting a plot for the season. Costs range from free to $50 for larger plots in some gardens, and most are under $20 for the season.

Marion Polk Food Share also offers free gardening classes at many gardens and can lower or waive costs for families who can’t afford a plot rental.

“We really want to equip people with tools,” she said.

Event details: “Celebrate the Seed”, Saturday, March 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Marion Polk Food Share at 1660 Industrial Dr. NE. Free and open to the public.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander at [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.