November 13, 2012

Lots and Lots of Apples.

Thank you to the following organizations for their contributions to OCCAC's influx of apples:

Gebbers Farms.
Crane and Crane Orchards.
Buster Carter and the Masonic Lodge.
Magi Warehouse
Rotary First Harvest

We are also grateful for a large yellow cube van, and the folks who will make use of all of these apples.

The story is Gebbers had a lot of apples from last year, set up in atmospherically controlled cold storage. The apples had not sold, and they needed room for some new apples. Gebbers graciously donated these apples to the food bank system by distribution through the Okanogan County Food Bank at OCCAC. The total number of pallets equaled 42. Thank you Gebbers.
Crane and Crane Orchards set aside three bins of apples that were going to be juiced, but were hand selected to get the bad ones out, for the purpose of donating to the food bank.  Thank you Crane and Crane Orchards.

Buster Carter donates apples each year as a collaborative effort through the Masonic Lodge; these apples come from Buster Carter's orchard. This year OCCAC recieved 12 bins of apples from Buster Carter. Thank you Buster Carter and the Masonic Lodge, and BC Gordon.

OCCAC did not, of course have warehouse capacity for such a huge amount of apples, but Magi Cold Storage did, and they permitted OCCAC to store apples there for a period of time at the end of the cold storage season. Thank you Magi Cold Storage.

Wal Mart provided OCCAC with the money which purchased the petroleum, which allowed the yellow truck to move around okanogan county -- to act as the transport for redistributing these apples.

Americorps and Rotary First Harvest provided the human to drive around / arrange to pick up / solicit donations / load / unload / record. etc. the apples.

73,740 lbs of Apples were put into the Okanogan County Food Bank System between the dates of 10/17/12 and 11/6/12.

Thank you to everybody involved for your help, and thank you for all of the donations and volunteer assistance that OCCAC has received this year.

October 23, 2012

Square Foot Garden Season End.

The close of the Square Foot Garden Season demonstrated that people are all at different stages of learning, and that any amount of garden experience is a huge step toward continued garden experience.

OCCAC was able to install 10 gardens in 2012, 9 in the spring, and 1 in late summer. We are giving the Fall garden a bit more time to develop, but the survey results are in for the 9 other distributed gardens.

Of 9 gardens:

100% said they would continue to garden next year,
80% said they would expand their garden next year
100% gained garden experience in techniques and methods
100% said that the square foot garden method was easy to use
and 40% indicated that they would need garden mentoring advisement to continue next year. 

As far as an overall program rating goes, the average came in at 4.3 / 5 for overall satisfaction with the program, and the daily increase of produce due to the garden was 2.3 servings each day.

Folks were happy to recieve their gardens, and tended to experience a lot of learning -- some got more learning than vegetables, but from our perspective, that just means save your seeds and try again next year.

The beautiful thing about the SFG outreach program is that each family is now equipped to follow through with gardening practices as long as they are inclined to do so.

Alvin Potts, Michelle Puki and their daughter. -- Winthrop, WA.

In that regard, we consider this program a great success.

September 27, 2012

East Omak Elementary School Garden

In 2012, Okanogan Community Action has participated in school garden enrichment for East Omak Elementary.

The objective was to round out the educational experience of the existing school garden to include a more ecological component. A 'wild' area was constructed, in order to explore the possibilities of some basic permacultural concepts that were discovered in the book, Gaia's Garden.

There are plants that fix nitrogen and plants that provide forage food for birds, predatory insects, and pollinators. Many of the perennial plants were natives that were picked up through the Okanogan Conservation District Plant sale earlier in the year. Some of these plants are more drought resistant, and others are more riparian.

The ground is formed with swales, and heavily mulched in an attempt to conserve water, and provide a long term release of nutrients for plants.

The perennials will take some time to mature, and in the meanwhile, annual, self-seeding flowers have been planted by the students of an after school gardening program. The students learned how to sow from seed, transplant, and a bit about pollinators and decomposers.

Much of the garden is a mystery to the students, but the depth and possibility will increase annually, as the garden grows larger and larger. The hope is that a small ecosystem will be demonstrated -- fungi, fallen leaves, insects, healthy soil, birds, food, water conservation and beauty.

Some of the challenges have been slow decomposition of the sheet mulch. The bed was prepared spring '12, immediately before the planting of the native perennials. The result of this will be a slower process of maturity over several years -- which means that 3 or 5 years down the road, the garden will be more wild than ever.

Here are some photos:

We are approaching the end of our gardening season, and there are a few photos that Okanogan Community Action would like to share which describe the end of the season projects.

Ten gardens were distributed throughout Okanogan County to families with children under 10. Many of these families had never gardened at all prior to the program, so it was a learning opportunity, and a chance to feel encouraged and successful in gardening. Each of these families now has a 8'x4' raised bed garden, some vegetables and seeds to harvest, and a little more experience for next year.

The objective of the Square Foot Garden Program is to introduce gardening concepts to people in a way that is accessible and basic. Concepts like, "how much can you fit in a square", and "plant for harvest", make gardening about how useful it can be for basic family use. The raised beds look organized, and are not intimidating for new gardeners. Plants grow, and people learn; and that's what OCCAC is interested in providing Okanogan County.

Square Foot Garden Outreach: