Organic Vegetable Plant Starts

For 10 seasons Village Gardens community leaders and Food Works youth have been seeding, transplanting, cultivating and harvesting vegetables in their gardens and farm.

Seeding plants starts has been a growing experience for the Seeds of Harmony and New Beginnings Garden leaders. Initially gardeners relied solely on donated plant starts and seeds from Portland Nursery and distributed starts to gardeners at free plant give-aways. Garden leaders decided that selling plant starts at an affordable rate would allow them to expand choices and raise a small amount of revenue to go into the upkeep of their garden. In 2009 the SOH gardeners launched their first plant sale. It is hard to think back to this sale with out a conversation about the squash starts that were sold. Not one of the starts produced a squash all summer, but come October each gardener had a healthy patch of pumpkins.  The next year gardeners implemented a double-label method for all their seeded trays.

Over the years they have continued to develop creative tools for meeting the needs of their diverse community.   In 2011 gardeners developed a vegetable photo binder with color pictures and descriptions of each vegetables name inEnglish, French and Spanish. The New Beginning gardeners also created “To Go Plants”, a pre-order form and pick up system that allowed gardeners to get their starts on the “go”.  The garden plant sales have become exciting community events where gardeners can share their plant knowledge, gardening experience, tasty recipes, and purchase the plants they want in their garden.

The Food Works youth seed and grow starts for use on their organic farm in their Sauvie Island green house. Food Works has supported the SOH and NB garden sales by providing space in their greenhouse to grow their starts. In 2011, Food Works seeded over 29,000 seeds on their farm and distributed over 2,500 lbs of organic produce to their North Portland neighbors.

This year Food Works and SOH & NB Gardeners have partnered together to launch the Plants Starts Project. Their idea was to learn from each other, share their resources, and begin growing plant starts for the wider Portland community. For the past 6 months adults and youth have been busy launching the Plants Starts Project. Food Works youth started the season by leading a training with adult garden leaders to share their seeding methods, organization, and excel spreadsheets. SOH gardeners have been seeding trays on Saturdays and NB gardeners have been potting-up peppers and tomatoes during their Wednesday meetings. Dae Dae, a Food Works youth crew leader, has been leading cash handling and farmer’s market trainings for the PSP team in preparation for the Farmers Market. Peggy Acott, of the Portland Nursery, facilitated a customer service training to sharpen their skills handling customers. The SOH and NB gardeners both had their first community plant sale this spring and sold over 900 plants to their neighbors. An exciting addition to this project isselling our plant starts at the healthy corner grocery store, Village Market. You can get organic plant starts when you pick up your weekly groceries.

The Plants Starts Project team will begin selling their organic vegetable starts at the Portland Farmers Market this Saturday, May 5 at the Food Works market stand. Remember, you can purchase these lush plant starts with your EBT card! The PSP team will be on hand to share their stories, plant knowledge, the photo book, and of course sell plant starts for your garden. Sales from the Plant Starts will contribute to the energy costs of the greenhouse, soil, fertilizer and gh trays,  the purchase of desired seed varieties, and garden site improvements.

Great job Dae Dae, Pritha, Trish, Linda, Efrain, Doug, Dan, Michelle, Asha, Earl, Sue N., Dan, Kari, Yousf, Shamsyia, Melissa, Virginia, Martin, Roy, Mary P., Dominic, Malicah, Wasongolo, Stan, Jason, Ryan, Mikael, Barbara, Helen, Rodolfo, and Sally!

And a huge thanks to our amazing partners: Portland Nursery, City Farm, Little Prince Nursery, Naomi’s Farm Supply, Territorial Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Baker Creek Seeds, Irish Eyes Garden Seeds!!! We couldn’t do this work without you!