PHILOMATH - An Oregon State University student is turning a weed-choked lot here into a cornucopia for low-income families, but she is concerned her dream could wither without more help.

An Albany nursery and several area civic groups have donated cash for the community vegetable garden, said Karen Shackleton, an OSU sophomore in pre-nursing. But to keep the garden growing through the summer, volunteer gardeners, as well as materials and cash, are still needed. Anyone interested should contact Shackleton at 541-929-5923.

Volunteers don't need to sign up or pledge to work a certain number of hours, although a core group of steady workers "would be terrific," she said.

"I want to emphasize that if people can just drop by once during the summer for a half-hour, that's great," Shackleton said. "They don't need to set a schedule."

The need for community food resources came to Shackleton during her summer break from classes. Working at a Philomath grocery store, she noticed families trying to make ends meet by buying cheap, unhealthy food.

"I could tell their families weren't getting the proper nutrition and I wanted to do something to help," Shackleton said. "I thought about donating cash, but I wanted to do something that was practical and would do some good for the community."

Inspiration came in a magazine article about an East Coast woman who turned a vacant lot into a garden to give low-income families fresh food.

Shackleton knew nothing about plants, but lack of knowledge didn't dampen her enthusiasm.

"I didn't have any knowledge of gardening and I had no idea on how to start," Shackleton pointed out, adding that she quickly found people who could supply expertise.

The OSU Master Gardener program and Shonnard's Nursery and Florist in Philomath provided experts who answered crop, fertilizer and weed questions. A plea to Peoria Gardens in Albany secured $200 worth of vegetable starts and the Corvallis Ambassadors and local Lions Club members donated cash toward purchase of materials.

Still, a garden needs a spot to grow, but Beau Vencill, Philomath public works director, solved the problem with the offer of a 120-foot by 60-foot municipal lot, complete with water service.

"It's a great spot - sandy loam soil, which is hard to find. All the lots around it are heavy clay," Shackleton said.

While she knows the garden will be work, the 1994 Philomath High School graduate says it will be worth the effort.

Already, community outreach groups have offered to take all the food she can grow. Shackleton plans to have potatoes, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, carrots and other crops planted by early June - if she can just get a little help from the community.

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Karen Shackleton, 541-929-5923