Sowing the Harvest

Gardeners ready their Shared Harvest plots

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Volunteer Kathy Montgomery places straw between garden boxes on Saturday at the Shared Harvest Community Garden.

COEUR d'ALENE - The Shared Harvest mission statement isn't complicated: Growing, learning, giving.

That pretty much says it all.

"It's the whole idea of just spreading the love," said founder and president Kim Normand.

Built on the corner of 10th Street and Foster Avenue, the Shared Harvest Community Garden is a tranquil landscape of raised beds, compost bins, arbors and planting barrels. A few benches and trellises add to the peaceful atmosphere.

Every growing season, local families or community groups buy a garden plot from the nonprofit Shared Harvest for just $25. Sixty plots are scattered throughout the garden.

The green thumbs plant lettuce, carrots, strawberries, onions, beans or tomatoes, and keep as much produce as they want. Leftover fruits and veggies are donated to Roots Local Food Share - a partner of Shared Harvest - and delivered to organizations that serve the homeless or disadvantaged.

"Basically, (the gardeners) provide for their families, but they also help the community," Normand said.

Food banks, women's shelters and soup kitchens all benefit from the garden's bounty.

"A lot of people just get boxed, canned goods, and it's really the vegetables that are expensive," said Roots Program Coordinator Korrine Kreilkamp. "This is a way to keep people healthy and fit, and also have neighbors meet one another."

Around 60 volunteers assembled at the garden on Saturday, rakes and shovels in hand. Laying straw, assembling boxes and piling up compost, the volunteers prepared their communal garden for another season of growing.

April, of course, is a time for sowing.

"We don't really have the space for a garden at our home," said Kayla Baker of Post Falls, a 19-year-old North Idaho College student. "I think it's amazing. It's great."

This year, her garden might include lavender, thyme, carrots and cantaloupe. She hopes to attract a few bees to her plot.

"I'm a budding beekeeper, and I just want some experience," Baker said.

Starting in June, the garden will serve as a drop-off point for donations. Anyone with extra produce is encouraged to stop by Shared Harvest on Wednesday nights.

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