The Youth Service Bureau garden at the corner of Bridge and 10th Streets in Portland offered residents the opportunity to learn about growing fruits and vegetables. Residents cared for the plants throughout the summer. (Photo provided)
The Youth Service Bureau garden at the corner of Bridge and 10th Streets in Portland offered residents the opportunity to learn about growing fruits and vegetables. Residents cared for the plants throughout the summer. (Photo provided)
A group of dedicated teens from Youth Service Bureau dedicated their summer to “planting hope and growing patience”.
The 13 to 18 year olds were responsible for the YSB garden in the vacant lot at the corner of 10th and Bridge Streets in Portland, and “planting hope and growing patience” was the garden’s theme.
With help, they were responsible for planting, harvesting, hoeing and watering the garden all summer long.
The residents could be found in the garden every Tuesday morning, even when it was raining.
“Every Tuesday at 10 we would go down there, and we would take whatever kids were available and wanted to go,” he said. “Every week we kind of learned a little something, and we would do whatever had to be done at that time.”
But the teens didn’t mind.
“It’s fun to get muddy and dirty,” said an 18-year-old girl involved in the program.
The idea for the garden came from past YSB board member Bettie Jacobs. She said she thought of it in January and presented plans to the board.
“The whole purpose of it was to give them an outdoor learning environment, to learn something about natural resources,” she said. “Most of the residents that come here are not from Portland, and you know, we’re rural, but that doesn’t mean the youth that are here are rural.”
She said the board wanted the teens to see where the food they eat comes from.
“We want them to see and appreciate what they eat on their table,” said Jacobs.
Scott Bissell, a staff member at YSB, took charge of the garden. He was responsible for bringing the youth to the garden each week so they could tend to it.
He said the garden experience was very educational for the residents.
“I learned a lot throughout the process also,” he said.
The youth were interested in growing a variety of plants, and the relatively small 8-foot by 16-foot plot didn’t deter them.
“If you could grow it, they wanted to grow it,” he said.
The residents received help and tips from the Jay County Master Gardeners, who took the YSB residents to buy the plants and then met with them once a week. They planted watermelon, tomatoes, squash, green beans, cucumber, peppers, onions and potatoes.
Because there is no access to water where the garden is planted, the youth had to use a barrel to collect water and bring it to the plants.
Jacobs said the teens couldn’t wait to pick the vegetables and fruits.
“When the first little green tomato got on there they were so excited, and I laughed because I said, ‘Oh, they’re going to be so sick of tomatoes,’” Jacobs said.
“They wanted to pick everything. As soon as a little tiny thing formed they were, ‘Oh, let’s pick it,’” Bissell added. “Every time I’d pull up, I’d barely get the thing in park, and they were out the doors, ‘Look at those, look at those, can we pick those, those are ready.’”
The garden wasn’t just a fun activity for the teens. It was a learning tool too.
Jacobs said the garden taught the teens patience, how a seed turns into a plant and sharing.
“They got to plan, they actually got their hands dirty and they got to eat it and eat it and eat it,” she said.
One of the residents said her favorite part of the garden was eating the watermelon and fried green tomatoes. She also liked giving other people an opportunity to try the fruits and veggies they were growing.
The bureau donated whatever fruits and vegetables it wasn’t able to use to the Healthy Family Program in Jay County.
Bissell said the residents were adamant about donating the food to people who needed it.
“They wanted to give it to the homeless shelter, the food bank, whatever,” he said. “We found a funnel through the Healthy Family Program.”
The garden was full throughout July and August, with some of the biggest watermelons Jacobs said she has ever seen. And the Youth Service Bureau already has plans for next year’s garden, with hopes of building a shed for tools.