The Story of Village Gardens
In 2001, Community Leaders in the St. Johns Woods apartments (now Cathedral Gardens Apartments) in North Portland, organized with Janus Youth Programs' support to build a community garden in direct response to the poverty, isolation, gang activity and hunger that impacted their community and families. Janus Youth Programs has continued to nurture the growth of Village Gardens over the years.
A garden plot was dedicated to the youth in the community who grew salad greens for sale. The demand for salad greens grew at Portland Farmers Market much to the excitement of the youth. These Community Leaders believed a garden would unite the community for positive change and offer positive activities for the youth and healthy food for their neighborhood. The St. Johns Woods Garden project grew to be a highly successful effort over its first few years, often credited with reducing crime and vandalism and increasing a sense of neighborhood safety in the apartment complex.
In 2005 garden leaders wanted to share what they had done with another community and were invited by Home Forward to expand the project to the New Columbia and Tamaracks communities, two miles down the road. At the same time, the neighborhood youth who had been participating in the community gardens and selling salad greens expanded onto donated land on Sauvie Island providing additional employment and capacity to grow produce. They began plans to launch Food Works farm, now a 2.5 acre certified organic farm on Metro donated land on Sauvie Island that employs up to 30 youth a year.
Today Village Gardens offers over 80 garden plots to neighbors in North Portland affordable housing communities, cultivates a community fruit orchard, raises chickens, supports a children’s garden program, provides cooking and nutrition support, employs youth and residents of North Portland affordable housing communities, sponsors a summer farmers market, supports emerging farmer businesses and provides a healthy corner grocery store in the neighborhood of New Columbia. As one of our founding community members used to say, “it may take a village to raise a child, but it only took one garden to unite our village.”