From the Earth to the Table

Local restaurants and purveyors want to keep Wasatch Community Gardens planted firmly on 4th East.
by Scott Evans
With a quarter-acre of urban green space on the line, more than a dozen local restaurants and purveyors combine their resources in support of Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG) on March 3 for the “Save the 4th East Garden Party.” The deadline to raise the last 5% of the money needed to buy the garden’s land approaches!

A long list of Salt Lake’s favorite eateries is coming together to raise funds and awareness for WCG, each  lending their support for the garden and for local food and sustainable farming practices. Many of the owners and managers have nestled next to the WCG booth at the Downtown Farmers Market.

On menus around the country the words seasonal, organic and local flourish. In our own local restaurants, chefs and owners enlist seasonal products with emphasis on local and organic products. For restaurants to carry these products, consumers need to be aware of the additional cost (and benefits) of featuring them on their menus. WCG increases this awareness for consumers and organic gardeners throughout the Salt Lake area. Since 1989, WCG has helped people grow and share fresh produce; taught urban youth responsibility, cooperation and ecological awareness and been an active source for sustainable organic gardening.

For 25 years, even before the official inception of WCG, farmers have been growing produce at 553 South 400 East. With a rich history in the soil and among the pathways, the garden hosts 21 gardening families each year (50% of which are low-income). It produces 11,000 pounds of produce annually. The garden is home to the first public rainwater cistern in Salt Lake, which collects about 5,000 gallons annually, used to irrigate the garden. Saving the garden will preserve an urban oasis that has literally fed hundreds of families.

In 2007 the landowner, who had allowed WCG to use the empty lot, sold the property to the Community Development Corporation (CDC), which planned to turn the land into affordable housing. Initially, the CDC allowed the garden to operate for the remainder of the season; later, it offered to sell the land to WCG for its purchase price of $255,000.

The offer is undeniably generous, yet the amount is staggering for a small organization like WCG. Through community support including help from Salt Lake City’s Open Lands Program, the George and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and private donors, a majority of the funds have been raised to purchase the land. Nearly a year into fundraising, it is WCG’s goal to raise the final dollars needed to purchase the garden at this March 3 fundraiser.

Because the event happens so early in the month, you could well be reading this article after it has taken place. Still, you haven’t missed the opportunity to support sustainable community gardening.

With four community gardens and numerous programs to fund, Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG) needs donations and volunteers. In addition to purchasing the 4th East Garden, WCG seeks funds to start a teen internship program offering teens an opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture. WCG already serves over 1,000 youth annually in ongoing and weekly after-school garden programs. To volunteer or pledge your support go to www.wasatchgardens.org. u∆∆

Details:

What: Save the 4th East Garden Party

When: Monday, March 3,  5pm – 8pm

Where: Squatters Pub Brewery,

147 W. Broadway

Cost: $25 per person includes two drink tickets and generous appetizers from local restaurants. Buy tickets at the door or online at www.wasatchgardens.org.

Why: 100% of the ticket price goes towards the purchase of the 4th East Garden, which is managed by Wasatch Community Gardens.