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Heather Bullock

SUS 410
Monroe Sharing Gardens- A Gift of Gratitude
Alice Waters said teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in
a community responsibly is the center of an education. Although children were
not always at the center of my work with the Monroe Sharing Gardens, I think
that there is a child laden in every human being, whether they choose to show it
or not. There is a childlike inquisitiveness and innate desire to learn and be
connected with whats around us that society enables us to drown out much too
easily through the constant bombardment of advertising, politics, and distraction
through a misplacement of values.
At the center of our educational system should be the knowledge that one
is part of a greater community, and the motivation to participate responsibly in
that community could fuel everything that we learn and aspire to as we move
through our lives. The first step to participation in a greater cause is taking care
of ones physical needs, because if one cannot serve themselves and maintain a
state of health , then they cannot be expected to extend their service to others. At
the Sharing Gardens, we focus on the quality of generosity, and how the intention
of selflessness enables us the resources to feed ourselves and feed others.
My internship during the summer of 2015 was easily the most enriching,
valuable, and impacting experience that I have ever had the fortune to benefit
from. Once a week, for the duration of three months, I would stay for two days at

the Gardens and soak up the lifestyle that Chris and Llyn, my mentors (and now
adopted parents) so nobly uphold in the spirit of sustainability. The mission at the
Sharing Gardens is to have an organic community garden which is supported by
weekly or bi-weekly volunteers who take as much food as they need on a weekly
basis, the surplus of which goes to the food bank across the street. On 3 acres
of land, as a community of supportive and dedicated servants of the soil,
volunteers venture out into the garden to do the dirty work all together for 3
hours. :) This would consist generally of weeding garden beds, mowing the grass
around the beds, tilling soil for new crops, planting starter crops, pruning young
plants, harvesting fruits and vegetables, watering beds, making and pouring
compost tea, laying mulch and compost around or on crop beds, processing food
via dehydration, canning, or freezing, transporting produce to the local food bank,
helping young children with various farm tasks, helping the volunteers at the food
bank or providing lunch and refreshments for the farm and food bank volunteers.
Once the volunteers would head home after a few hours of sweating in the
summer sun, I would be assigned any variety of the above tasks throughout the
duration of the rest of the day.
Chris and Llyn, the founders of the Sharing Gardens, are a husband and
wife who reside full-time at the farm. They run weekly volunteer operations during
the main growing season and during the school year, and they support servicelearning projects for various classes on OSU's campus, including GEO 300,
Sustainability for the Common Good and SOIL 205, Introductory Soil Science.
The philosophy that Chris and Llyn operate the farm on is rooted in generosity--

giving before receiving. This can be represented in many ways in our work on
the farm. For example, when relating to the soil, the soil organisms must be fed
and the soil itself must have the right balance of nutrients before it can be a
source of growth and health for plants that are anticipated to grow from it. It is the
same with each of us in relation to our lives. In a sense, we get nourishment in
our daily lives based on how much we've selflessly given of ourselves.
Sustainability is at the heart of what Chris and Llyn have established in
Monroe, and is impacting the community along the dimensions of the triple
bottom line in many ways. Concerning the social avenue of sustainability, first
comes the acknowledgement that one is an integral part of the community, and
the responsibility to participate actively as a positive force in that community,
which is something that is practiced at the gardens. Individuals come from
different parts of the Willamette Valley to share in the work of sustaining the life
and food that grows in the garden, and then support in the distribution of that
food to other volunteers and to those at the food bank. The individuals at the food
bank are generally in a financial or health struggle, and Chris and Llyn openly
share their advice and values with those individuals in the hopes that they will
make healthy and responsible decisions once they are provided the resources.
The experience of the volunteers coming together to be a part of a larger project
is also a significant social impact. Fellowship and love are fostered when
everyone arrives and works with the understanding that we are all worth giving
and receiving generosity from the earth and from each other, and that with a fair

amount of cooperation, we contribute to helping feed hundreds of families every

month with real, organic, nutrient-dense food.
In relation to the ecological benefits of the project, these are probably the
most obvious. The land that we work on is a closed-loop system in that the
majority of the inputs that go into the plants and the soil come straight from the
farm, and nothing is ever wasted. No fertilizers or synthetics are ever added into
the soil- the fertilizing agent used at the gardens are the grass clippings that are
mowed from between the beds, and compost accumulated from all of the organic
matter that decomposes there on the farm, which are rich in nutrients and ready
for work. Chris and Llyn preach the effectiveness of integrated pest management
using techniques that embody non-violence and non-aggressive intention
towards creatures other than what are traditionally "desired." There is an
understanding expressed that they all have a role to play in contributing to the
benefit of biodiversity, and that everyone and everything needs to be fed. I
learned about birds and the role that they play in maintaining the level of pests
that impact the garden as we harvested sunflower seeds and put them out to
attract birds throughout the season. Chris and Llyn have also established habitat
for various birds to come and raise their young by building and hanging bird
houses on all areas of the property.
Another dimension of supporting ecology is the diversity of crops that are
grown on the farm. Instead of growing a monoculture, we support a polyculture,
which supports the strength of the plants through biodiversity, as well as
providing a diverse diet for those of us that eat the food on the farm. In this way,

we don't have to get our food from a variety of different sources, but rather can
go to the farm and get all of the fruits and vegetables that we need for the week.
On that note, Chris and Llyn are constantly mindful of sourcing their food locally.
For the parts of their diet that may not be grown on the farm, such as
seasonings, spices, grains, dairy products, and others, thought is given to
purchase products that uphold ecologically-sound methods of production and
local products that have a low-impact in getting to our kitchen. In addition to this,
hay mulch, oak leaves, and wood chips are obtained or donated by local farms
and friends. The oak leaves, for example, are donated by a friend in town who
has a many oak trees and has no use for the leaves, so he brings them to the
farm and Chris and Llyn make use of them.
The last point I will bring up is the eating habits sustained on the farm.
Chris and Llyn make an effort to process the surplus of the food that they grow
via canning, freezing, or juicing so that they can enjoy them throughout the year.
This way, they don't feel the urge to purchase out-of-season produce that has
been shipped from other countries. Chris and Llyn also eat a vegetarian diet,
which significantly lowers their carbon footprint due to the resources that don't
need to be used in raising, processing, and transporting meat sources. On top of
that, they are not contributing to unsustainable methane emissions and polluted
runoff that leaches into groundwater systems as is common with large-scale
meat operations.
Concerning economic dimensions, the work that Chris and Llyn do is not
paid, and nothing that they grow is sold for profit, yet they are able to distribute

valuable resources that are widely needed by families that benefit from the food
they get from the gardens. The philosophy that Chris and Llyn exercise in relation
to generosity is that without the motivation of acquiring wealth before all else, if a
person or community gives what they have selflessly, then they open themselves
up to receive what they need in return. Chris and Llyn have carried on their
efforts on the farm through donations and grants, and they believe they have
received consistent support because their intentions are pure and they have
given before received. They have a phrase on the wall of their home which reads
"Giving does not impoverish nor does withholding enrich." They talk about a
sharing economy, in which this idea is centered around. The system that we
currently operate on that is dependent on the act of taking what you can because
you have the means to and not looking out for others, leads to spiritual
deprivation, as well as eventual monetary deprivation as you do not open
yourself to receiving what has been given. Instead, people look out for each other
and for the health and well-being of their community, and eventually the world,
and then everyone has enough. This also touches on the social dimensions of
the triple bottom line.
The Monroe Sharing Gardens have the ability to transform the way that
people live their lives by impacting how they feed their families and relate to each
other and the earth. If more of the greater community participated in what we do
at the gardens, they would see how easy it is to be connected to where your food
comes from, especially when you do it with others. The projects at the gardens

generously touch lives every week, and influence a pinch the student body of
OSU every time a service-learning project comes to help out.
I learned so much during my internship, and it was refreshing to have
many of my beliefs concerning sustainability, ethics, and morality to be reinforced
by the individuals that I would meet on the farm. I have seen and experienced the
act of giving before taking, and how it always ends in enrichment, be it by
material means or spiritual. I have learned that all creatures are worth caring for,
and when we are acting in a spirit of generosity, more can always be done to
ensure that others are fed. For example, mid-summer, a handful of weeks into
my internship, it became apparent that there was a deer who was getting into the
yard and munching on plants. At some point, this was becoming more
detrimental to the supply of the crops than it was before, but we had realized that
she was feeding two babies. Instead of fencing her off to ensure that she could
not nibble from our tomatoes or chew holes into our cabbage heads, Llyn started
doing research on plants that deer particularly like to graze, and she plans to
dedicate the front yard next year to deer-friendly plants so that she can support
her young and benefit from the service of sharing which is embraced at the
I learned how to preserve food, and why that's an important thing to do,
especially in the Willamette Valley, where we have so much availability to
fantastic food during the growing season. I learned how to can, make jellies, and
process food so that it can be stored in the freezer over the winter. I also learned
how to save my own seed, particularly from tomatoes and peppers and I learned

why, especially today, that's a valuable organic practice. I learned how to live my
life with sustainability and mindfulness woven naturally into the threads and
reasoning of nearly everything that I do, and how to do that with gratitude rather
than bitterness, especially when others don't necessarily follow suit. This
summer, I learned how to generously give what I have, and in turn, graciously
receive what I need.