ST. GEORGE – This year marks the fourth growing season of the community garden at Tonaquint Nature Center and the eighth season for The Garden, which serves as a demonstration garden.
Since 2012, under the management of horticulturist Casey Jones, and through communal volunteer efforts, The Garden has donated about 500 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to the Grace Episcopal Church’s soup kitchen at 1072 E. 900 S. in St. George.
Volunteer service is promoted by allowing community renters the option of having their annual fee of $30 waived by volunteering two hours per month annually at The Garden.
This year Casey Jones expects the pounds of produce donations to increase.
“Last year we were able to produce 100 pounds more than the previous year due to the richness of the soil,” Jones said.
Popularity of plot rentals has increased immensely since its inception in 2010. The community garden rents 50 plots each growing season to Washington County residents. Last year was the first year that all plots were rented and this year the plots are already occupied.
“We saw a spark in community interest over the past few years,” Jones said. “With the economic downturn and food safety concerns such as E. coli outbreaks and extreme pesticide use, people have become more concerned with the journey food takes before you buy it at the grocery store.”
The demo garden, which is in partnership with the Washington County Water Conservancy District, provides an environment by which people can gain awareness of planting responsibly in the desert by means of water conservation.
“The idea of the demo garden is to show people what kind of species you can plant while conserving water at the same time,” Jones said, “And it doesn’t just have to be rocks and cactus to be desert friendly.”
As the third season renter of a plot from the community garden, St. George resident, Ellen Bonadurer, said the $30 annual fee is well worth it as planting one’s own food has exceptional benefits in today’s world.
“I like knowing what’s on my food,” Bonadurer said, “when I grow my own food, I have the control and knowledge of what is in it. I try to grow completely organic. Gardening is just a healthy habit. It motivates you to get outside and move around. Besides, I just love to play in the dirt.”
The community garden expects to expand acreage in order to offer more rental plots in the near future.
“As long as we continue receiving wide spread participation, extending out another acre is already in the works,” said Julie Breckenridge, water conservation manager with the WCWCD and The Garden’s administrator.
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