Tina Paschich intently scans the raised organic vegetable beds at Evergreen Family Village in Port Angeles.
The onetime homeless mother of four, who for more than a year has lived in the “transitional” housing complex a step above the Serenity House homeless shelter, is the village’s garden group leader.
Already, the garden is carefully prepared for its second season. Onions, peas, greens and other early crops are popping up from the ground.
Paschich does not hide her pride in the plot, that includes a small greenhouse she helped build for warmer-weather crops such as peppers and tomatoes.
She is part of a new triumvirate that connects low-income families with Salt Creek Farm and the higher-income Holy Trinity Lutheran Church congregation, which this year is sponsoring two $500 shares at the organic farm for two low-income families of four.
Paschich jokes that her community garden leadership role is only because she shows the most interest in the 30-foot by 30-foot Evergreen Family Village plot.
She also works as a housekeeper at a Port Angeles inn to help raise her family, including daughter Sheri Bishop, 14, a Choice Alternative School student who finds “fun” in working beside mom in the garden.
“My dad used to grow a garden so I helped him, but I didn’t know the planning part,” said Paschich, something she has since learned through the village’s community garden program.
Paschich has also learned about the nutritional value of eating fresh organic vegetables, which is part of the program’s learning experience.
“The nutrition was the big thing for me, the nutrition, that’s part of my wellness,” Paschich said, recalling more than a year ago when she ate poorly and felt “sick.”
The program was established last year through the village’s former program director, Emily Marcus, and a $9,000 grant from Equity Trust Fund, a private Connecticut foundation with a goal of connecting community-supported agriculture with the low-income community.
The grant last year also supported organic vegetable “food shares” for interested village families, including their children, who worked to help grow their own produce at Salt Creek Farm, west of Port Angeles near Joyce.The certified organic farm at 310 Salt Creek Road, owned and operated by Doug Hendrickson and Lee Norton, was the first of three on the North Olympic Peninsula that participates in “Community Supported Agriculture,” a program eliminates the middleman, saves small farms and brings fresh, organic vegetables and herbs to families, connecting them directly to the farmer.