A Look Into Yelm’s World of Gardening


By Daniel Warn / dan@yelmonline.com

W.Whether it’s an insane rush to the local vegetable greenhouses or a growing interest in the Yelm Community Garden, it’s safe to say that in today’s landscape of pandemic and uncertainty across the city, fingers crossed have turned green.

Ashley Witherow, the office manager of the wholesale division of Jason’s Greenhouse, illustrated this garden fever by detailing how the greenhouse has been bouncing since the spring of 2020.

“It was definitely insane, chaotic madness,” Witherow said of the pandemic. “Many people have just started gardening for the first time or have started gardening again as if they hadn’t done it in a long time and got back into the habit.”

Kellie Petersen, owner of Gordon’s garden center, repeated these feelings.

“We were definitely busier, definitely busier.” Said Petersen. “We see more customers. You have more time. They probably don’t go on vacation so not only are they spending that money on their gardens, but I imagine home improvement centers are busy. “

According to both Witherow and Petersen, the growth of business in the gardening world had a lot to do with the food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was definitely more vegetable garden, more edible garden, anything people could do to produce food was probably our best-selling product.” Witherow said. “I’ve heard a lot of people say they didn’t trust the food chain or the supply system.”

Petersen saw a similar change in buying habits.

“I would just say that the most important difference is an increase in the vegetable garden,” said Petersen. “After the initial shutdown and in the midst of bottlenecks – and stalls in all other supply chains – people were very concerned about food security in my opinion. Many families who had never gardened were suddenly forced to work in the garden. “

This growing concern for food security in the area led Gordon’s Garden Center to donate all of the plants and seeds that the nonprofit Bounty for Families needed for their Yelm Community Garden, which started this year.

The garden already has a growing stock of broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, potatoes, rugola, herbs, beans, peas, beets, carrots and much more. Tomatoes, squash and zucchini come at the right time.

Heidi Smith, the secretary of Bounty for Families, said there are also native plants like wild strawberries, lupins and mock oranges, among others.

“We’re still thinking about where the food is going, but we believe there will definitely be a slice where people can just come out and take what they want, no more than they need, but when you need products, yes, that will be an option, ”said Smith. “It’s about meeting the food insecurity needs in our community.”

The Yelm Community Garden really took off last November when Bounty for Families partnered with the Thurston County Conservation District after years of trying to create a garden in Yelm. The reserve brought another partner – the non-profit Garden Raised Bounty – and provided expertise and funding for a dedicated person who could consult with Bounty for Families to help make the garden a reality.

The Nisqually Tribe gave Bounty for Families $ 12,000 to improve garden access, and individuals like Josh Baumann, a building contractor, donated their time and labor to create the infrastructure needed to run the garden . Baumann’s contribution, in collaboration with people from the Yelm Farmers Market, was a garden shed that was built last month. In addition, Yelm High School students planted native vegetation and dug trenches along the edge of the garden.

And thanks to the city of Yelm, the garden has a free home in Yelm City Park.

“Once we got it going, there was more excitement and collaboration and it just keeps growing,” said Smith. “We had a lot of people who just showed up to help.”

The next step for the community garden is to find a garden manager and apply for an urban agriculture grant of $ 50,000.

Petersen said that Gordon’s interest in vegetable gardens made people feel more secure in their food supplies, but it also made people enjoy their food more.

“The result is that they have learned that their vegetables not only cost less, they also taste better,” said Petersen. “Your vegetables will taste sweeter if you pick them straight from the ground – or straight from the vine – and cook or eat them raw. They are certainly more nutritious when going from the garden to the table. “

Getting fresh produce from your own garden or a community garden is all well and good, but it would be all for nothing if people didn’t know what to do with the food, Smith said. She noted that the community garden will offer services to eradicate this inequality for young and old alike.

“This garden will serve several purposes,” said Smith. “One of them is the collaboration with our Power of Produce kids ‘club, which is part of the farmers’ market. … And we’re going to have some cooking classes out here. It is not good to grow the products and not know what to do with them once they are grown. “

Back at Jason’s greenhouse, Witherow said the increased interest in gardening had met more needs than just providing the community with food. It has given people something to do in a time of closed meeting rooms, limited public events, and closed shops.

“People were stuck at home and wanted to beautify their yards and do something together,” said Witherow. “I think it’s great. I mean, it’s doing something, something to get you outside, something families could do together. … I think a lot of that was family time, and a lot of it was people branching out and wanted to start a new hobby. You know, you can only be on Netflix so long? “

She also said customers have indicated they want to revive a tradition of cultivating land that has been lost in their families through generations.

“I’ve just heard a lot of people say, ‘My grandma used to do this and now we’re stuck at home and I want to do it and I want to teach my kids how to do it,'” said Witherow.

According to Witherow and Petersen, greenhouses and garden centers have seen a surge in gardening across the industry, a trend they believe will continue for years to come.

“A lot of people I think got into the garden last year and I think they enjoyed it, to be honest,” said Witherow. “It’s something that I think we’re going to be busy as an industry for a while, and it’s great. It’s a kind of renaissance for the garden world. It got people back to their roots and I think it’s great to see. “

Petersen went on to say that people found a passion that they didn’t know they were capable of, a passion that will last.

“They are really excited and I think there are a lot of young families who have never thought about gardening,” said Petersen. “It really was probably the most beneficial and probably the biggest difference since COVID. I think it will keep where people take it up that (path) and have it not just as a trend but as a lifestyle. “