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Bend landfill garden provides food assistance

By SCOTT HAMMERS
Of the The Bulletin

BEND — Hidden well beyond the tall fence ringing Knott Landfill on Bend's east side, there's an unlikely oasis of green.

Not far from piles of nail-studded 2x4s, old cans of paint and obsolete or broken televisions, stand rows of corn, tomatoes and onions. Carrots and cauliflower pop from the earth, and a jumble of pumpkin vines snake across a gentle hillside.

The garden is a project of Deschutes Recycling, the company that processes nearly all of the recyclables that come through the landfill, including the grass clippings, fallen leaves and other yard debris that last year was processed into nearly 18,000 cubic yards of compost.

Growing crops in the compost the company produces on site, the garden produces roughly 1,200 pounds of fresh vegetables in a typical year, all of which is donated to local food assistance programs through NeighborImpact.

Brad Bailey, president of Deschutes Recycling, said the company's employees tend the garden, wandering over to plant seeds or pull weeds whenever they've got a few minutes of downtime. Having a garden just feet from where locals drop off the yard debris the company transforms into rich soil is the best advertisement the company could have, Bailey said.

“It's a great way, I think, to one, be involved with our product, and two, be involved with the larger community.”

Bailey said NeighborImpact hauled off around 200 pounds of potatoes last week, though he's expecting this year's total harvest to be down a bit from past seasons.

A recent frost scarred some squash and tomato plants — Bailey said temperatures tend to be cooler at the landfill than elsewhere in town — and rabbits, rockchucks, birds and other critters have taken to dining on the crops.

“This is the fourth or fifth year since starting the garden, and I think they've sort of found us,” Bailey said.

Sandy Klein, food resource specialist with NeighborImpact, said the vegetables provided by Deschutes Recycling are distributed to more than 40 partner agencies around Central Oregon providing food boxes, hot meals and sack lunches to those in need. Across the tri-county area, around 20,000 people access food assistance programs in any given month, Klein said, but such programs often have a difficult time keeping sufficient stocks of fresh food.

“The produce is really great, because it's not as accessible as some of the other products we get,” she said. “We get about half of our food donated from the Oregon Food Bank, and it's usually in the form of pallets of canned food, peanut butter, things like that.”

Klein said home gardeners with any excess produce can see that it doesn't go to waste by donating it to the NeighborImpact food program.

“I know people really look forward to getting it in the summertime. We never have a tough time getting rid of the fresh produce,” she said.

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

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