History of the Garden
St. Mark Community Garden was established in the spring of 2010. Dr. Brent Chapman, Horticulturist and church member, had the Sunday School kids plant starts of cabbage and peas in their classes. Several weeks later they were planted in the middle of a very grassy field. That was the humble start which resulted in about 300 pounds of produce donated to the Thurston County Food Bank. In 2011 Olympia Kiwanis shared their expertise of low-pressure irrigation and seed potatoes and the garden started to take shape and produce more. A year later we added carrots as our second large crop, increasing our poundage again. A small band of very committed gardeners has developed this former patch of weeds and grass into a lovely one acre, fertile, organic garden. Many churches have visited our garden and have gone on to start their own gardens.
The Chief Gardener for a number of years has been Gary D. His full time job from early spring through late Fall has been the planning, oversight, growing of plant starts, the hard physical work of weeding and harvesting, directing garden interns and volunteers, weighing and keeping statistics, and delivering fresh, organic produce to both sites for the Thurston County Food Bank – the Main downtown location and the new Lacey Farm Stand the summer of 2021. Other helpers have included Mack, Earla, Brent, Kristina, Cheri, Bob and Gail. We are always ready to welcome any new volunteers to our ranks!
Current crops include Blueberries, Strawberries, Grapes, Pumpkins, Winter and Summer squashes, Tomatoes, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Beets, Yellow, Purple and Green Beans, Carrots, Potatoes, Celery, Rutabagas, Radishes, Snap Peas, Kale, and Sweet Corn. The Food Bank loves the variety of vegetables we provide to their clients.,
Yearly Summary of Produce Totals:
Year Pounds Cumulative
2010 300 300
2011 3000 3300
2012 4500 7800
2013 4100 11900
2014 8500 20400
2015 9404 29804
2016 10163 39967
2017 11583 51550
2018 12713 64263
2019 12990 77253
2020 13446 90699
2021 13216 103915
2022 11,371. 115,286
In the Fall of 2021, the St. Mark Community Garden surpassed 100,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce delivered to the Thurston County Food Bank!
School Field Trips
The St. Mark Garden has also sponsored field trips for about 600-700 children from Mountain View Elementary School each spring since 2014. The school is located directly across the street from the church. The classes have come to learn about gardening, identify and taste vegetables, help plant crops, and enjoy healthy garden related snacks. Michaela Winkley, of the Thurston County Food Bank, has been integral in setting this program up for success. The school loves these field trips because there is no expensive transportation – it is merely a walk across the street. Each year we receive colorful and creative Thank-you notes from the children. Some state, “This was the best field trip I have ever had!!”
During the Covid pandemic we have been unable to host any field trips but are hopeful to restart this program in 2022.
Raised Beds for Adoption
We originally started with 17 raised beds available for adoption. The first few years, church members were the greatest users. Thanks to Lacey Park and Recreation’s advertising in subsequent years, many community members started adopting beds.
We grew to our current complement of 46 beds in 2013. All beds are drip irrigated and the water is paid for by St. Mark Lutheran Church. Each year since 2010, every bed has been utilized. Many community gardeners have returned year after year and are very grateful for their garden bed.
Becoming a Gardener
If you would like to apply for a raised bed to grow your own vegetables you also must be willing to work in the one acre garden grown exclusively for the Thurston County Food Bank. This includes committing 12 hours throughout the growing season to plant, weed, and harvest. Since the Spring of 2018 there has been a $25 refundable deposit for the adoption of a bed. The money will be returned at the conclusion of the growing season if all aspects of the Garden Guidelines are met. Please contact Gail Frare, Garden Coordinator at 360-870-6267 for more information.
A St. Mark Community Garden application form and a set of St. Mark Community Garden Guidelines are necessary for a plot. Print, fill-out and return to the church office or email them back to the Garden Coordinator. Garden applications are accepted starting March 1st of each year. Beds are assigned by the end of March. To find other gardens in the greater Olympia area visit www.ThurstonCommunityGardens.org
Become a Volunteer!
St. Mark Community Garden is always looking for VOLUNTEERS.