Eric Moore had a vision to grow a garden outside his office window. Moore, an employee of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Idaho, works at the USDA Service Center in Gooding.
For years, the back part of the Service Center property was vacant and covered in weeds. Looking at that weed patch always bothered Moore. So he was excited when he got permission from the landlord to start a garden there last year.
Many partners pitched in to help create the Gooding Community Garden. The city provided water. Glanbia, a local cheese manufacturer, provided funds. Boy Scouts built wheelchair-accessible raised beds, and local farmers plowed the fields and helped install irrigation. The University of Idaho donated a shed.
In one year of operation the garden provided 6,000 pounds of food to homebound seniors, local soup kitchens and food pantries. In addition, 17 families enjoyed free garden plots to feed their families.
The Gooding Community Garden is a place where artists, children with disabilities, seniors, families, farmers, university researchers, FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) members, Boy Scouts and USDA employees come together.
Corn grown in the garden was sold at the Gooding farmer’s market in the summer by the FFA club, and the profits were used to send students to a national competition in Indiana. Produce from the Gooding Community Garden also took blue ribbons in the county fair for eggplants, beans and jalapeños.
Plans for the future include adding a teepee, iron sculptural works, handcrafted tiles from a local ceramic artist and an outdoor Mexican bread oven. Moore and the others working on the garden also plan to expand into a property next to the elementary school that contains dilapidated greenhouses.
Once the greenhouses are repaired, Moore envisions a place where cold-season produce for the school and pollinator-friendly and other garden plants can be started. The Gooding Soil Conservation District plans to grow native plants for use on conservation and habitat restoration projects.
Moore is quick to point out that while he had the idea for the garden, the whole community made it happen. “The community was ready for a garden like this. It was just the right idea at the right time.” he says.
While the community support has been generous and inspiring, it is also clear that Moore’s enthusiasm about this project is contagious. His imagination and openness to all ideas have made it easy for people to join his efforts and find a place within in the garden to make their own projects happen. The back of the garden’s sign says it all—grow on!
Find out how to become an Earth Team volunteer in your community.
Follow NRCS on Twitter.
Check out other conservation stories on the USDA blog.