Friday, October 18, 2013

A Place to Grow

The entrance sign to the GRuB Garden!
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS

Tucked away to the west of Washington State's bustling capitol, Olympia, lies three peaceful acres of property unlike any other. A quick drive past might showcase a group of people under a canopy with small baskets of food, small but colorfully painted sheds, and loads upon loads of vegetation. Upon second glance you may spot a group of scurrying, dirt-covered teenagers. Teenagers?! In this quiet neighborhood? This nice garden? That can't be a good sign. But here, at GRuB (which stands for Garden-Raised Bounty), the scurrying teenagers are far from up to no good. Instead, they are more likely running around installing hoses, fertilizing plants, picking fresh vegetables, or training other young gardeners how to properly maintain their tomatoes. And they do this all for the betterment of their community.   

A view of the garden where student volunteers were working.
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
Breaking the stereotype
"There's all these stereotypes that teenagers are just glued to their cell phones and their laptops and that's all they care about. And it's just so interesting because here you get to see such a different side of that" explains Mallorie, GRuB's Americorps student leader, and a 4 year veteran of the garden. Mallorie and many other local students just like her, come to GRuB to spend time outdoors, learn how to garden, and to help local Olympians practice affordable cooking and eating. A senior at Olympia High School, Dayquan, explains of his involvement with GRuB, "I think that growing up on assistance, and getting free food at school definitely urged me to help with this program because they do a lot with getting food out there to the market stands and to the food bank. I'm giving back to my community. Everyone else thinks I'm just skating and doing other stuff but I'm skating and getting food justice incorporated in Olympia."

The Kitchen Garden Project area
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
A community institution
The GRuB garden is a celebrated staple in the Olympia community. They cultivate food on about .85 acres year-round for the community, but this is just the beginning. The garden houses a student and youth program that helps provide a safe, educational and fun place for young students to exert their creative energy. "I love GRuB because it's shown me how to talk in public and put my thoughts out there in a way that's not 'in your face' but is also not able to be squashed" shares Connor, another Olympia High School student who has both worked and volunteered with GRuB.

Some of the artwork found around the garden.
Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
More than just a garden
In addition, GRuB is best known in the community for their Kitchen Garden Project. Through this project, community members can grow their own food either on GRuB property or in their own backyards. Either way, GRuB staff and volunteers work diligently to properly train locals how to grow, maintain, and even cook their own food. The goal is to provide Olympia with the keys to healthy and self-sufficient food habits. The crew doesn't just train individuals how to garden, but they build long-standing relationships, making visits often to assure families and their gardens are doing well. Yes, from an outside view, GRuB may look like just a neighborhood garden, but once you step inside it immediately becomes clear that it is a living, breathing place to grow.   

For more information on this great organization please visit their website. And to see more photos from our visit check out our Facebook photo album!


  1. As an Olympia resident, I can vouch for the positive impact GRuB makes in our community. Connecting youth w/ outdoors, bringing food closer to people, enabling increased independence for low-income families, wow! And on a personal note, I've taken advantage of the farm stand to add some locally sourced organic produce to the menu at home!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Curtis! I agree - GRuB was on of the all-around greatest places I have ever visited. Hoping to return soon, help do some garden work, and maybe this time sample some of the fresh produce myself! :)

  2. A wonderful role model for other communities across the nation and around the world.