Community Gardening in Montana

When we left Alaska we traveled in the winter – not really a great time to be making a road trip – and arrived in Boise, Idaho to what they considered one of their worst winters in a very long time. The temperature was 22 degrees Fahrenheit and we had left Fairbanks at a fantastic -9 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s all perspective, really. We were in T-shirts as we unloaded our few possessions we carried with us. All of the rest was coming later by moving van. Boise was nice. I made friends. It wasn’t quite the same as the relationships I formed in Fairbanks. There were fewer, but I didn’t really get an opportunity for employment until later in the year. The main reason I ever look for work is for the social aspect.

My husband’s job came to a close – the business he was working for closed their doors – and we moved to Montana after almost a year in Boise. We were there for about a year and a half and then I found employment. In the midst of it all, we joined a cooperative group which owns a plot of land at a local park in downtown Billings. Folks pay a small fee to grow what they wish (with some exceptions) in their rented plots. The rules are a little strict but what do you expect from a government initiative, right?

My husband enrolled us in this co-op – the Amend Community Garden and we went to our orientation and two gardening workshops (one was held before our orientation with another group but we tried to learn as much as we could.) We visited the plot on orientation day.

He studied all of the literature we received, researched the hell out of everything online and drew up a map of our plot.

Planned garden plots

We weeded and seeded. We attended Master Gardener seminars. We weeded some more. We watered. As part of the community we volunteered our time to weed and water and turn compost and tidy up the general area. It was back breaking but then we started to see non-weed type greenery shooting up!

I had no idea which we had planted where but it didn’t matter. Plants came up and kept thriving despite my black thumb. I walked around and looked at the other plots. I admired the straight rows and the “scarecrows” and the way everyone was working together.

We managed to harvest an abundance of zucchini and yellow squash and 2 potatoes. Those were the best potatoes I ever tasted. There’s nothing like food that you’ve had a hand in growing. All he did was wash and cook them but it was heaven.

Community gardening isn’t for everybody. It takes a lot of patience and working with others. On the other hand the rewards are home-grown foods (shared by the whole cooperative), social interaction, seeing the fruits of your labor and feeling a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

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