PORT TOWNSEND — It’s possible to have fun, said Barbara Tusting, even amid pandemic protocols and biting-cold weather.
What’s even more fun is the product of all that work: the Food Bank Farm & Gardens’ first-ever spring plant sale.
“We’ve got 60 or so different varieties of fruits, flowers, vegetables and herbs; more than 2,100 plant starts,” said Tusting, an organizer of the sale that will start Monday and run through Friday, April 16.
Gardeners of all levels — “you can be a rank beginner,” Tusting said — are invited to shop the sale online at PTFoodBankGarden.com.
Then the drive-through pickup day is next Saturday, April 17, outside the Quimper Grange, 1219 Corona St.
“We’ll have lots of runners,” bringing orders to cars from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., added Tusting, who has been helping plan this event for six months now.
Besides the strawberry starts, the elephant garlic, the lettuces and the calendula, there will be family garden science kits and note cards graced with an original painting by Port Townsend artist Richard Jesse Watson.
Volunteers such as Tusting, Kathy Ryan, Mark Paxton and Mary Paxton have raised every last plant. Working on front porches, in backyards and at the Quimper Grange’s garden, they’ve orchestrated the sale as a fundraiser for their eight gardens, which grow produce for free food banks in Port Townsend, Port Hadlock, Quilcene and Brinnon. Washington State University Extension and the Master Gardeners program have provided invaluable help, Tusting noted.
Yet it hasn’t all been sunshine and laughter.
“We had to learn how to work differently,” with social distancing and far fewer volunteers than in previous years, Tusting said.
At one point during the winter when COVID-19 cases were surging, she and co-manager Jo Yount had to cancel the rest of the volunteers’ work. Gathering wasn’t safe at the time.
When the gardeners could work together again, they continued learning how to not only help plants thrive, but also how to respect one another’s comfort level, Tusting said. This past year has been about “learning to work with hardship; learning to be happy behind a mask. It was particularly difficult in summer. You do get used to it,” especially when you focus on “your thing,” which is to grow good food.
“We love our thing. Also, I think the precautions brought us together in a way. We were learning how to respect other people; have patience with other people.”
The patience paid off with a major haul of produce for the four food banks. The gardeners cultivated and donated 6.25 tons of organic vegetables and fruits plus 398 chicken and duck eggs.
At the same time, Tusting and the crew want to make gardening — for food, beauty and camaraderie — accessible to everybody. Information sheets will accompany plants purchased at next week’s sale, and the prices will be low for starts and seedlings: $1 to $5.
At the other end of the spectrum are the “city pickers,” container gardens with six plants chosen by the buyer. They’re ideal for a small deck, Tusting said, and they’re custom-planted for $100. This is an experimental fundraiser, she added, with just five available.
“We want to raise consciousness about what we do,” Tusting said: A garden is “a great place to give back to your community while being outdoors … It’s wonderful to give back for something so basic for life: food.”
To contact the volunteer coordinator, use the “volunteering” link at PTFoodBankGarden.com.
For information about the hours and locations of local food pantries, visit jeffersoncountyfoodbanks.org.
The Food Bank Farm & Gardens welcome people of all ages and abilities, and can match people with the garden nearest them, Tusting said.
And since these gardens were first planted in 2012, she added, workers have made long-lasting friendships among the kale and rhubarb.
“It’s a healthy volunteer adventure,” she said.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]