Perched atop of a ladder under the watchful eye of his father, 5-year-old Giffin Norris clutched a rake in his hands.
Once he steadied his balance, Griffin started shaking branches of the apple tree in front of him with the rake.
One by one, apples fell from the tree onto a tarp on the ground. After a few minutes, the tarp was littered with more than 100 apples.
“It looks like there’s 15 thousand apples,” exclaimed Griffin. “Now I’ve got to gather them so they can make more cider.”
Fresh apple cider was one of the highlights of a harvest party held Sunday at Westside Community Church, 4000 S.W. Western Blvd.
The event served as the unveiling of a new 10,000 square feet garden on the church’s property adjacent to Highway 34. It features a wide range of produce including raspberries, squash and eggplant.
Visitors to the harvest party were treated to tours of the garden, samples of produce from the garden and also could purchase produce. Activities such as a scavenger hunt and face painting were available for children.
The Working Organically to Research & Master Sustainability youth garden is part of a two-year research project dubbed “Producing for the Future.”
The project, which is being funded by the National Health Institute, is a collaboration between low-income youth and young adults, local churches and Oregon State University researchers.
“The main goal of this project is to figure out ways to increase access to locally grown produce for low income people,” said Leslie Richards, assistant professor with OSU’s college of public health and human Sciences. “Many low-income people can’t afford locally grown produce and end up eating foods that aren’t healthy for them.”
Richards, who is leading the “Producing for the Future” project, said that some of the project’s other goals are to promote better health and community volunteerism.
In fact, several of the orchid trees and plants in the garden were donated by local businesses and community members.
In addition to the one at Westside Community Church, a smaller garden (2,400 square feet) was planted at the Sweet Home Methodist Church in Sweet Home as part of the project.
Michael Bosch was one of eight youth and young adults who participated in the project at the Corvallis site. Participants received a research incentive of $1,200.
The 22 year-old Linn-Benton Community College student, said that he spent about 10 to 20 hours a week this summer working at the garden. Bosch said one of the biggest benefits of being involved in the project was learning more about nutrition and healthy diets.
“Locally grown produce, especially if its organic, is expensive,” Bosch said. “Working on this project gave me access to foods I normally can’t buy like fruits. So I think it’s good thing to have here.”
Produce from the Corvallis garden has already been sold at the Corvallis Farmers Market and distributed in food boxes at OSU. Richards said another aspect of the project is determining ways to get the produce into the hands of low-income people.
For example, there were no set prices for the produce that was available Sunday at the harvest party, just suggested donations.
For more information about the “Producing for the Future” project or to get involved, contact Richards at 541-737-1071 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Raju Woodward can be contacted at 758-9526 or email@example.com