Liberty Wells garden grows fruit, veggies and community

A community garden is where neighbors get together to plant fruits and vegetables ­— and grow a community.

It's pretty simple, according to Ashley Patterson of Wasatch Community Gardens. "You bring people together to grow food. We want to empower them to take a little piece of their neighborhood."

Tuesday, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie's Biskupski commemorated the first harvest of the Liberty Wells Community Garden, 1700 S. 700 East.

"Liberty Wells neighbors, including some of our newest resident refugee families, have come together to share knowledge and friendship, which produced this beautiful and sustainable garden," Biskupski said. "We have put vacant land to good use while improving the community and good will at the same time."

The Liberty Wells garden is Salt Lake City's fifth partnership through its Green City Growers Program with nonprofit Wasatch Community Gardens.

"We've been amazed to see the enthusiasm and positive energy put forth by the gardeners who make up our new Liberty Wells Community Garden," Patterson said. "This group of people has created a vibrant, thriving, and productive space where everyone in the neighborhood wants to hang out, chat with their neighbors, and enjoy fresh food together."

Forty-four families in the area have plots there. Four of them are made up of resettled refugees from Sudan and Bhutan.

A program called "New Roots" aims to help refugee families establish their new lives in Salt Lake City, said Cecilia Hackerson, New Roots coordinator for the International Rescue Committee.

The Liberty Wells garden is one of 13 garden sites in Utah where more than 90 refugee families have plots.

"These gardens offer space for refugee families to share and honor their agricultural traditions, obtain fresh produce, and build community in a new home," Hackerson said.

Neighbors broke ground in April, after site selection and approval from the city. The project was supported by grants from the Wheeler Foundation and the Rotary Club of Salt Lake City.

Britt Vanderhoof, who helped organize the Liberty Wells garden, spends hours there each week.

"As an avid gardener, I've enjoyed the health benefits of eating fresh, organic, locally grown food," she said. "But as much as I love the taste of food fresh from the garden, I have enjoyed even more seeing the community around the Liberty Wells Community Garden come together to help grow this amazing garden into what it is today."

Salt Lake City's Green City Growers Program began in 2013 to support local food production on city property. The city continues to evaluate parcels for potential garden sites as demand increases.

Salt Lake City residents can apply for a community garden program at slcgreen.com. Applications for 2017 must be submitted by Sept. 30.

csmart@sltrib.com

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