At Arvada’s Sunshine Community Garden, everyone agrees: “It’s OK not to know anything,” said gardener Deborah Kerr.
The community garden has been all about the learning experience for Kerr and her fellow gardeners — and months into the 2019 season, “I’m glad to see things growing,” she said.
Kerr, who also had a plot in the garden last year, grows tomatoes, peppers and watermelon in her plot, to name just a few items.
And in the garden around her, the group of gardeners is equally eclectic: grandparents, parents and children; individuals from Arvada, Wheat Ridge and Denver; first-time gardeners, seasoned veterans and those who fall somewhere in the middle.
“Some just throw seeds in the ground and see what happens,” said Meredith Quenzer, nutrition supervisor at Jefferson County Public Health. “For the kids, it teaches them how to be adventurers and how to be patient. I think it’s a good life lesson for everybody.”
Having been part of Arvada since 2018, the Sunshine Community Garden supplies gardeners with everything they need to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables. The garden is located at the health department’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Clinic, 5150 Allison St. The WIC runs the garden in partnership with Denver Urban Gardens and Jefferson County Head Start.
The WIC, which supports low- or medium-income caregivers of children under five, has seen several of the families it serves join the garden, Quenzer said.
The garden increased space from 13 to 22 plots this year, and every plot is now “filled with happy families,” she said.
“They can plant what they like, and each bed has its own personality,” she said.
Those who work in the garden, including Quenzer, are all after the same thing: healthy food for a healthy lifestyle.
“You’ve got to be careful what you’re eating,” Kerr said, saying that she’s found many grocery store foods are contaminated by pesticides and “that’s concerning as a mother.”
“I wanted to eat healthier and do those recipes I’ve seen,” she said. “(The garden) is something I highly recommend. There are days I feel stressed out, and I’ll just come down and water everyone’s box. It’s very therapeutic.”
While many showed up to bring home some new ingredients, the gardeners say that what stands out most about the garden is the community.
“I want to benefit from it and if I can, I want to help other people with it, too,” said gardener Salwa Elishai. Elishai and her daughter both have plots in the garden, often bringing Elishai’s grandchildren along to enjoy the space.
“We are happy to be here and to talk to everyone,” she said. “We can all know each other as a community.”
MacKenzie Keller agreed. Known throughout the garden as the owner of one of the most involved plots — her garden be is overflowing with more than 15 kinds of plants and is protected by metal trellises she built herself — the Arvada resident said she loves to share her knowledge with fellow gardeners.
“My whole life, I grew up on a farm,” she said. “People reach out to people who they think have more experience, and I’m happy to help. It can be challenging, but everyone really gets the hang of it.”
The garden is full for this season, Quenzer said, but will accept applications for next season starting in March 2020 on a first-come, first-served basis.
Meanwhile, the garden is always hiring volunteers to keep the garden well-built and well-run until its clean-up in November. Prospective volunteers should contact Quenzer at (303) 271-5780.
“There’s so much education that can happen out there,” she said. “It really just is an eye-opener.”