OSU student helps families put food on tables


PHILOMATH - Low-income families will have a chance to grow their own vegetables for their tables thanks to an Oregon State University student's community agriculture project.

Forty plots of land in the Philomath Community Garden will soon be ready for "ownership" and planting, according to Karen Shackleton, an OSU junior in pre-nursing from Philomath. To sign up for a plot, or for information about volunteer opportunities, contact Shackleton at 541-713-5320 or Penny Schumacher at 541-753-5988.

Philomath's Community Garden took root one year ago, when Shackleton decided to grow food and donate the harvest to community food banks. By the end of the summer of 1996, Shackleton and community volunteers harvested more than 1,000 pounds of food for area families.

This year, Shackleton decided families might be better served if they had a chance to grow and harvest vegetables themselves.

"These are 12-foot by 10-foot plots that have been donated by the City of Philomath," she said. "Families will take care of their plots and donated vegetable starts will be provided. If they need help, we'll provide advice."

Volunteers are needed to aid family gardeners and to maintain a potato patch. The potatoes will be donated to local food banks.

People without green thumbs shouldn't be afraid to try their luck, she said. Shackleton had little gardening experience when she started the project.

It was while working at a Philomath grocery store a few years ago that she noticed families trying to make ends meet by buying cheap, unhealthy food.

"I could tell their families weren't getting the proper nutrition and I wanted to do something to help. I thought about donating cash, but I wanted to do something that was practical and would do some good for the community."

Inspiration came in a magazine article about an East Coast woman who turned a vacant lot into a garden to give low-income families fresh food.

"I didn't have any knowledge of gardening and I had no idea on how to start," but she quickly found people who could supply expertise.