Clark Park Garden cultivates produce and education to local community

Students and long-time residents are getting their hands dirty in preparation for fall planting

“West of Mill” has entered popular vernacular in Tempe to designate the neighborhood stretching west from Maple Avenue to Hardy Drive and south from University Drive to Broadway Road.

The neighborhood is home to some of the oldest buildings in Tempe, but in more recent years, students and long-time residents have come together to cement a sense of community into the neighborhood’s identity through several neighborhood initiatives. One of the most prominent is the Clark Park Community Garden, located at the corner of Roosevelt and 19th streets.

“We ask that everybody be very natural in their growing methods,” said local Tempe resident and ASU alumna Morgan Winburn, who currently oversees the planning of the farmer’s market garden, “so that you’re not using any harsh chemicals or pesticides that would harm other gardeners.”

The garden features several different project plots and rental plots aside from the market garden, which is used to grow produce for the farmer’s market held there in the fall and spring seasons. According to Winburn, all profits from the farmer’s market go to the Tempe Community Action Agency to help fight hunger in the Tempe area. 

As a lifelong gardener herself, Winburn said her favorite part of volunteering at the garden is being able to participate in gardening as a community.

“It’s sort of a community and then a garden,” she said. “It’s the bonds that you make with everybody who’s involved. That’s the best part.”

Several students living in the neighborhood are pitching in to help the garden’s efforts. 

Cultural anthropology graduate student and neighborhood resident Christine DeMyers volunteered for the first time this month for one of the garden’s Saturday morning volunteer days. Gloves on and garden ho in hand, she said the community garden has nurtured her lifelong hobby since she moved from Austin, Texas. 

As an environmentalist, DeMyers said community gardening is close to the core of both her worldview and her field of study.

“I feel like a lot of the mental health problems that we have have to do with a sense of disconnect and isolation,” she said. “And so, community gardening is a way of building community and building an environmentally sustainable community.”

Civil engineering senior Nicholas Smart transferred to ASU from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has been living in the neighborhood since January. 

“This garden is a community asset,” Smart said. “It’s something that sets us apart from the rest of our city … We’re all invested in not only that park, but really that tiny space that we have to make our community a better place.”

Volunteer days at the Clark Park Community Garden are every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Those interested can rent a 4-foot by 8-foot plot for $10 per month. For more information, you can visit the garden's Facebook page. 

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