Meet Barbara, an active leader and passionate community member of Village Gardens! As a Community Health Worker, Barbara contributes to improving the health of the community by organizing and leading meditation classes and a morning walking group. In addition to her position as a Community Health Worker, Barbara volunteers much of her time at the Seeds of Harmony Garden. This beautiful community garden is located just a few blocks from the Village Market in New Columbia, right next to the Tamarack Apartments. Barbara was involved in every aspect of planning and organizing the Seeds of Harmony Garden when it first began six years ago. As a graduate of the Oregon State University (OSU) Master Gardener Program, she has been able to contribute much knowledge and skills to the garden project. About three years ago, Barbara had the great idea to start a Peace Garden as part of the Seeds of Harmony Garden. She thought a peace garden would fit perfectly with the goals of Seeds of Harmony, in which community members strive for “things to run harmonious,” using conflict resolution to ensure that “everyone feels safe in the garden.” With the help of fellow community members during a work party, a 20 by 50 foot area was dug up and cleared for the Peace Garden to take root. Barbara wanted this to be a safe space for people “to come and sit for some peace of mind- a place to be quiet, to hear the birds, to listen to the leaves of the cheery trees blowing in the wind.” Barbara’s vision of the Peace Garden has become a reality, and she works hard every week to keep the garden growing healthy and strong.
Many diverse plants, flowers, and medicinal herbs grow in the Peace Garden- all planted intentionally to create a tranquil environment. Goldenrod, a tall wild flower that can grow up to five feet tall, lines the perimeter of the garden to keep the space more secluded. Fragrant lavender and colorful succulents are found throughout the garden, as well as alyssum, bamboo, and strawberry trees. The herb beds grow low to the ground with mint, echinacea, lemon balm, chamomile, yarrow, and St. John’s wort. Barbara, a huge tea enthusiast, makes her own tea using the mint and lemon balm that grow here. In one corner of the garden is a patchwork of small pebbles, which Barbara calls “soft rocks.” She says this was designed to provide a space for people to do yoga in the garden. In the middle of the Peace Garden is a stone bird bath, and on either end are wooden benches. Barbara says she finds it “really calming to come and sit on the benches.” This calming energy in the garden inspired Barbara to teach her meditation classes here.
Although Barbara does much of the work in the Peace Garden by herself, she also gets help from the community. She says Seeds of Harmony work days, which happen about once a month, are really helpful to her. These days are great opportunities for people both inside and outside of the community to get involved and volunteer in the garden. She says when she is overwhelmed with garden work, she just organizes her own work days specifically for the Peace Garden, and the community always responds. In addition to the Peace Garden, Barbara keeps up her own garden plot in Seeds of Harmony. Currently, her plot is flowing in abundance with tomatillos and dino kale. Community members can have their own garden plots here, with a commitment to maintaining it weekly. In addition to individual garden plots, Seeds of Harmony has community plots, which enable anyone from the community to come to the garden and pick their own harvest. Four garden advocates, including one spanish-speaking advocate, take care of these community plots. A few of these advocates have also graduated from the OSU Master Gardener Program, and act as educators for all gardeners involved. In addition to maintaining the community plots, advocates support individuals to maintain their personal garden plots and help them problem-solve. They also help people grow in the “test garden,” a plot used for experimenting with new plants, and the “cultural plots,” a space used for community members to share unique plants or growing styles from their diverse backgrounds. “At Seeds of Harmony,” Barbara says, “we’re all for diversity.”
Barbara expressed a love for cooking healthy food with the vegetables she takes home from the garden. She has especially enjoyed sautéing scallop squash, a crop grown successfully in the test garden. But her ultimate soul food— “cauliflower ‘mashed potatoes.’ My son makes it for his girlfriend, because she can’t eat potatoes. Its so enriching, full of nutrients, hot and fluffy. I always ask him to make that. Its very comforting.” This planting season, her favorite vegetable to grow in her garden plot was tomatillos, and her favorite plant in the Peace Garden was yellow yarrow.
When Barbara thinks of Village Gardens, three things come to mind: family, community, and diversity. Barbara says that Village Gardens has become “like a family” to her, and she has become very close to people in this community and cares about them deeply. She really appreciates the diversity at Village Gardens- diversity in the population, the community members, and the programs themselves. She has particularly enjoyed listening to different languages through working with people from other cultures. Most importantly, Barbara says Village Gardens always puts the community first: “Village Gardens is always creating opportunities for community members to grow and learn new things.” She goes on to say that Village Gardens engages people through various programs that are very personal and meaningful to their lives. “Village Gardens attracts a lot of different people- everyone is always welcome, and we are always thinking about what we can do to be the most helpful to the community. Village Gardens taught me that the people around me have a wealth of information. We can learn from each other, sometimes just about life itself.”
In March, Barbara starting keeping a journal with updates about the Peace Garden! Check out her entries below:
To get involved with the Seeds of Harmony Garden or the Peace Garden, join the Seeds of Harmony Committee Meetings every Saturday at 10am. The garden is located across the street from the Boys and Girls Club at 4430 N. Trenton, also just two blocks east of the Village Market. Meetings take place at the garden itself, but if its raining, they will be held at the community room in the Tamarack Apartments (apt. #55). You can also join Barbara’s walking group! Walks begin at the Village Market (4632 N Trenton St.) at 10am every Wednesday morning. Join Barbara for a walk to get some exercise and learn more about her meditation class and the Peace Garden.