Gateway: Living

Community garden fills Gig Harbor food bank with local vegetables, fruit

Bill Sehmel picks tomatoes during a harvest last week at the Morford farm community garden in Gig Harbor.
Bill Sehmel picks tomatoes during a harvest last week at the Morford farm community garden in Gig Harbor. jbessex@gateline.com

With summer reaching its peak, gardens all over Gig Harbor are in full swing, with flowers, produce and fruit enjoying the (mostly) warm and bright weather of Washington in August.

This is true for the community garden run by Bill Sehmel and a group of volunteers at the Morford Property off the 1300 block of 38th street in Gig Harbor.

“Last year I pretty much did the garden myself and all I pretty much did was corn,” Sehmel said.

Sehmel, a retired PenMet Parks District commissioner, has eight volunteers helping him manage the 75-by-65-foot community garden and 17-acre property this year.

We take very little home and a lot to the food bank. We usually try to take one of everything home and try it before taking it to the food bank.

Bill Sehmel

The group grows a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, including tomatoes, different types of lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, beets, radishes and, of course, corn. But, unlike many other community gardens, the gardeners for these crops give their harvest back to those in need by donating the majority of their vegetables to the local FISH food bank.

“We take very little home and a lot to the food bank,” Sehmel said. “We usually try to take one of everything home and try it before taking it to the food bank.”

He added that 95 percent of the vegetables are taken to the food bank, along with some fruit from some fruit trees already growing on the property.

“We’re pretty good at growing but we’re really bad at weighing before we take (the vegetables) in,” he said.

We’re pretty good at growing but we’re really bad at weighing before we take (the vegetables) in (to the food bank).

Sehmel

Most of the volunteers at the community garden have vegetable gardens of their own at home and are donating their time and efforts not only to help their community, but out of a love of gardening.

That’s why Kathy Kuhn joined the gardening group, after reading a notice in The Peninsula Gateway earlier in the year.

“I really like to garden,” Kuhn said. “It’s been above and beyond my expectation how prolific the garden is.”

The community garden was started as a way to demonstrate the value of the property as Sehmel assists Roland Morford and his wife in trying to donate the property to a parks district for the past four years.

“The garden is to stimulate interest in the agency to accept the whole garden,” Sehmel said.

I really like to garden. It’s been above and beyond my expectation how prolific the garden is.

Kathy Kuhn

He has some interest from Pierce County in accepting the donation of the land, though the county don’t have the money to maintain the property or provide oversight. Sehmel has a plan for this though, by creating a nonprofit and a board to oversee the property, the county would be able to lease the property back to be run by the nonprofit organization.

Currently, he has six people committed to the board and he’s looking for eight to 10 people total to meet a few times a year to run the nonprofit.

For board members, the desire to garden is not a requirement, with plenty of gardeners willing to help out with planting, pruning and picking.

“It’s a beautiful garden,” Kuhn said. “There’s been a definite learning curve with what we grow.”

Sehmel agreed: “I think we’ve found it’s easier to grow simple crops ... It’s been a lot of fun.”

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

Interested in the community garden?

Anyone interested in serving on the nonprofit board or volunteering with the garden can contact Sehmel at 253-732-5748.

More information and pictures of the garden can be found at the Friends of the Farm Garden Group Vegetable Vigilantes Facebook page.

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