A few steps to the north of the Teton County Fairgrounds building in Driggs, there’s a scraggly patch of ground. One corner is edged by pines, and the southern edge plays host to a ragtag line of shrubs, just beginning to muster up buds to greet the warmer weather. In some places the fence seems sturdy, while in others, it has certainly seen better days. Skeletal remains of bull thistles stand as tribute to past seasons of neglect.
While it doesn’t look like much now, this swath of fallow ground has an exciting future: it will be revived into a vibrant community garden that will enrich the valley in a variety of ways.
Jennifer Werlin, a passionate and experienced educator with the University of Idaho Extension, is leading the charge on revitalizing this neglected corner of the fairgrounds. In collaboration with local master gardeners, enthusiastic community members, food pantry representatives, Fair Board staff, and others, Werlin is taking the first steps to breathe new life into the community garden. An expert on local agriculture, community food systems, and 4-H youth development, she has a vision for the space that will serve the community in a diversity of ways.
“I hope that the Teton Valley Community Garden will provide quality growing space, infrastructure, and equipment for community members, as well as a place for social connections, encouragement, and learning with others,” Werlin said.
”Our 4-H youth and Extension class participants will have a place to learn about gardening in a hands-on manner. We also plan on having portions of the garden dedicated towards the ‘Grow-a-Row’ program that will benefit the Teton Valley Food Pantry, which has seen exponential demand since the pandemic started. I am very excited to grow this program that will provide many mental and physical benefits by users, as well as provide nutritious and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to community members. It will also help beautify the fairgrounds property and rehabilitate the previous fallow garden area, providing numerous benefits for years to come.”
Ultimately, the yard adjacent to the garden will be home to a playground, picnic tables, and a handful of apple trees. Overall, the area will be a welcoming and lush place for children, families, and anyone with curiosity about local food and agriculture to learn and connect.
While the specific design plans are still under development, the garden itself will have plots and raised beds for community members to claim for a growing season. Additionally, the community garden will be the new home for the 4-H “Grow-a-Row” program: an educational and volunteer-driven program that provides locally-grown produce to the Food Pantry for distribution to community members experiencing food insecurity.
A small shed will be relocated to the location to provide storage for on-site gardening tools and resources. The team will also be designing and implementing an irrigation system, composting system made from reclaimed pallet wood, and some shared patches of berries and pollinator-friendly flowers.
Werlin and the core group of leaders are thrilled to kick off the garden revitalization project as a part of the valley’s Earth Day celebrations on Thursday, April 22.
From 4-6 p.m., community members are invited to help with the first round of garden clean up and prep. Werlin advises that participants should come prepared to work outside, bring gloves, and garden tools. At 6 p.m., Werlin will offer a vermicomposting demonstration with the University of Idaho Extension, followed by a demonstration of tomato seed saving with UI and community seed swap. The evening will end with a 7 p.m. presentation on growing microgreens with local sprouting expert Alison Godlewski.
Volunteers are invited to join the garden revitalization efforts on Earth Day and beyond. Contact Jennifer Werlin (email@example.com) for more information on volunteering, to make a donation of tools, make a monetary gift to support the project, or to inquire about garden plot availability.
If, during the course of your spring cleaning, you discover any gardening tools that you no longer need (and are still in good, usable condition), consider donating them to the new Community Garden.
Items that would be particularly helpful include:
Other tools that are in good condition