CORVALLIS, Ore. - Community gardens in six Oregon counties have received grants totaling more than $20,000 to begin or improve efforts to grow produce for their neighborhoods.

"As the cost of food has risen, access to fresh, nutritious food has become prohibitively expensive for many families," said Gail Langellotto, OSU horticulturist and coordinator of the OSU Master Gardener program. "Community gardens give neighborhoods direct control of the quality and diversity of the produce they consume and thus help increase food security and promote a nutritious diet."

The projects were chosen by the Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education partnership between OSU Extension community horticulture faculty and nutrition educators. Funding for the projects is from a bonus award given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Food Stamp Program of the Oregon Department of Human Services in 2007.

The six funded projects are listed below.

• Cottage Grove - Healing Harvest in Eugene will develop and deliver educational programs that promote gardening at Kennedy Alternative High School in Cottage Grove. The programs will help students garden for personal and family food and introduce them to employment and success in commercial horticulture.

• McMinnville - Coordinators and members of the McMinnville Community Garden at the Salvation Army in McMinnville will improve and automate the watering system at the garden. A greenhouse has also been purchased with the grant funds. The improvements will facilitate winter gardening and year-round food production.

• Astoria - A community garden in the Emerald Heights housing complex will be established by Clatsop County Extension in Astoria. The grant also funds an outreach program that will empower residents to work cooperatively with the apartment management to make the community garden a sustainable feature in this housing complex.

• Roseburg - The Eastside Community Garden in east Roseburg will be developed to serve residents of this apartment-intense area. The plots were donated by the Community of Christ church, which also donated its facility for meetings and other functions needed to organize and maintain a community garden.

• Tillamook - The Food Roots' Youth Education and Outreach Project in Tillamook will develop and implement a garden-based education program that includes basic vegetable gardening methods, cooking lessons, exploration of cultural varieties of cuisine and lessons about the food system.

• Philomath - Ten raised-garden beds will be rebuilt and refurbished at Philomath High School. The high school botany class, under the direction of teacher Jeff Mitchell, maintains a grape arbor, fruit tree orchard, large vegetable garden and plants for the annual plant sale. In this project, 20 pairs of pruners and 10 pairs of loppers will be replaced, two compost tumblers will be purchased and student-designed signs will be constructed and installed in the garden area.

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Gail Langellotto,