A hedge of zinnia flowers along the roadside attracts our eye and tells us that something special is happening at 10700 30th Ave NE. Adjacent to the tennis courts at Nathan Hale High School, on land which belongs to Seattle Parks Department, gardeners meet to work together and share skills at the Meadowbrook Community Garden and Orchard.
Meadowbrook’s rural roots
Meadowbrook in northeast Seattle was among the last neighborhoods to come into the Seattle City Limits (1954) and has a heritage of country-style homes and gardens.
The site of Nathan Hale High School between NE 105th to 110th Streets, 30th to 35th Avenues NE, was once part of the Fischer Farm. In 1932 this lowland acreage of the farm, with the South Branch of Thornton Creek running through it, became Meadowbrook Golf Course. This preserved the large land area which, thirty years later, became the site of the high school.
Since the time that the golf course closed (circa 1960) the land area has been divided between the school and the Seattle Parks Department. The name of the golf course seemed to “stick” so that Meadowbrook became the neighborhood name. Much development has taken place since then, with interaction between the school, community and natural environment.
Meadowbrook resources include a community center building and swimming pool on the 35th Ave NE side of the block. Resources which enhance the neighborhood’s appreciation of nature include Thornton Creek and Meadowbrook Pond at the Confluence, on the east side of 35th Ave NE at NE 107th Street.
Since 2012 the Meadowbrook Community Garden and Orchard has expressed Meadowbrook’s heritage of community interaction and love of growing things.
From soil to psyche
Because of Meadowbrook’s beautiful natural environment, love of the soil and growing things seems to have seeped into the neighborhood psyche. There are many gardeners in Meadowbrook and their desire to create beauty and share food resources is channeled through the Community Garden and Orchard.
The program which became the Meadowbrook Community Garden and Orchard (MCGO) had its origin in the Sustainability movement which emphasizes growing food for local consumption and as a part of the community’s emergency preparedness plan. We can recall a few times in recent years when the Seattle area was paralyzed by severe weather. Grocery shelves were bare while weather conditions prevented normal shipping and trucking of food to stores.
As part of the overall emergency preparedness strategies of Seattle, 2010 was declared The Year of Urban Agriculture. Seattle City Council worked with nonprofits to promote farmers markets and other local food sources. At that time the waiting list for P-Patches was huge, so City agencies were instructed to set aside previously unused land for food-growing.
The garden is founded
In 2010 the director of the community center met with Meadowbrook garden organizers to begin work at the present site along 30th Ave NE. The garden group organized and began by building raised beds for planting. These raised beds yielded their first crop of cabbage only, because it was late in the year, by Thanksgivingtime 2012! The next spring was the first in a regular planting year.
A true community garden and orchard
Unlike a P-Patch with individual plots, MCGO is a true community garden where the work is done by everyone together and food is shared with the wider community. Work parties are held every Sunday afternoon almost year-round, and when harvesting is done, about 80% of the produce goes to the North Helpline.
Produce includes that of the orchard on the hillside above the garden. Trees and fruit-bearing bushes are called the Edible Arboretum. Species include apples, berries, and less-familiar varieties such as seabuckthorn and quince. The Garden and Orchard have a teaching function as to what can be grown and how to cook it and prepare meals.
Meadowbrook Community Care is the non-profit agency which helps coordinate volunteers who come to learn about the garden and help with the work. Volunteers have included school and corporate groups for service projects. High school students have come to the MCGO to do a senior project in horticulture, and elementary school children come to learn about growing food.
The goals of MCGO are to grow locally for food security, create community and share knowledge by working together. Look for the volunteer work parties on Sunday afternoons and join in, to help build the community of the garden.