Village Gardens brings a spirit of hope to the people by growing and sharing healthy food, learning and teaching skills, and empowering community leadership.
What We Do
Village Gardens now includes individual and family garden plots, employment opportunities for adults and teens, after-school and summer activities for children, homework clubs, an emerging livestock project, a Community Health Worker program, our youth-run entrepreneurial business growing and marketing specialty salad mixes at local farmers markets, and now, a community healthy corner store project. Village Gardens programs are organized into the following main branches:
The Story of Village Gardens
In 2001 resident leaders from the St. Johns Woods community invited Janus Youth Programs into the neighborhood to help them start a community garden. These leaders believed a garden could unite the community for positive change and hoped to offer positive activities for the children and youth of their neighborhood as well. Though many outside of the community were skeptical, the St. Johns Woods Garden project grew to be a highly successful effort over its first few years, often credited with reducing crime and vandalism and increasing a sense of neighborhood safety in the apartment complex. In 2005 garden leaders wanted to share what they had done with another community and were invited by the Housing Authority of Portland to expand the project to the New Columbia and Tamaracks communities, two miles down the road. Four women leaders were hired as Garden Mentors to help the new residents launch their own 24,000 square foot community garden, named Seeds of Harmony.
Also in 2005 the youth of Food Works determined that their small market garden business needed more resources to continue to grow. They began plans to launch the Food Works Farm, a one-acre certified organic farm on METRO land on Sauvie Island. From when they broke ground in the Spring of 2006 through the end of the last season, the Food Works youth have harvested over 23,000 lbs of produce and earned nearly $34,000 that they have reinvested into the program. Half of their harvested produce is distributed for free to other neighbors who are able to improve their diets and save money because of the Food Works youth.
When the program expanded to include the Seeds of Harmony Garden and the Food Works Farm, we re-named ourselves Village Gardens to recognize that we were no longer just one small neighborhood, but a growing community. As one of our founding community members used to say, “it may take a village to raise a child, but it only took one garden to unite our village.”
As we seek a more equitable world through our work at Village Gardens we strive to embody equity in our day to day practices as a program. We do this by honoring the knowledge of the community, supporting leadership development of both youth and adults, and investing in relationship-based partnerships. As the biggest stakeholders in the health of their community, resident Community Leaders are respected as authorities and empowered with the resources to realize their vision of a healthy community. Village Gardens programs reflect the wisdom and willingness of the many community residents who provide staff and volunteer energy to guide, direct, and implement our work. Historically, a small team of invited professionals have been selected by Community Leaders to work as partners, offering encouragement, skills training, networking support, project management assistance and fundraising as needed. As we grow, we continue to support Community Leaders to take on more levels of responsibility within the program.