Saturday, February 13, 2010

Garden at Madison School Takes Shape With Community, Local Business Support

Above: The Madison-Avanti Community Garden quickly takes shape as volunteers lay crushed gravel on February 6.

by Janine Gates

"This is going to be an amazing garden," gushes parent volunteer and garden coordinator Katie Stoll.

Stoll has taken a leadership role in coordinating the creation of a new community garden on Olympia's eastside, on the grounds of Madison Elementary School, in partnership with Avanti High School. Both schools are on Legion Way.

The project has garnered the involvement of many parent, student and community volunteers, and local businesses and organizations, including First United Methodist Church, Garden Raised Bounty, A-1 Rentals, Lew Rents and many more.

The project has been on a fast track since a November planning meeting with Madison principal Gayle Mar-Chun and Avanti High School principal Michael Velasquez, who worked together with active parents such as Stoll. With $600 from First United Methodist Church for garden start up supplies and fencing materials, a lumber donation by Gray Lumber in Tacoma and other support, the garden broke ground in late January.

A major work party last week involved about 45 adult volunteers and 25 children, who laid landscape cloth and moved an impressive 40 yards of crushed gravel. Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB) donated six raised beds and parents purchased four more beds. Volunteers intend to plant a wide variety of annual vegetables as well as fruit and herbs. Teachers will also be involved in creating curriculum around garden activities. Long-range plans include a greenhouse.

Kurtis Roberts of Puget Sound Landscaping is donating his expertise in landscape design to the garden project. "This will be the first opportunity for many children to garden. And look at the garden art! It's a manifestation of the kids already being excited about the garden. It's important for kids to know where their food comes from," says Roberts.

According to Olympia School District community relations director Peter Dex, 49% of Madison's 130 students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Roberts says that unlike Lincoln Elementary School's garden, which grows enough produce to donate food to the Thurston County Food Bank, Madison's garden will help feed its own students. Also according to Rex, 28 students at Madison are considered homeless.

Above: Michael Brown and Andy Suhrbier lend a hand with building the Madison-Avanti Community garden today.

Asked how he became involved in the project, Michael Brown says he lives across the street from Madison. His children are not yet school-aged. "It's hard to get away with not helping out when I live so close. I couldn't exactly just come over and say, 'Hey, where's the muffins,'" Brown joked.

Just then, Katie Stoll arrived with her children, bringing juice and snacks for the guys. Although it was raining, Michael Miltimore said they would probably be there for a few more hours. Miltimore has been lending his expertise in construction to the project. His connections allowed the project to get the garden's fence panels, with grant funding from Avanti, at cost.

Above: Michael Miltimore, right, is donating his construction expertise to the creation of the Madison-Avanti Community Garden and gives fencing instructions to Brian Stoll, middle, and Andy Suhrbier.

"I'm hoping this project will inspire the community to take ownership and pride in our school," said Katie Stoll.

The next garden work party will be March 13, 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. For more information on how you can contribute your time, donation or expertise, contact Katie Stoll at 464-4507.

Janine Gates is an Eastside neighborhood resident and former Madison School parent.


  1. Thanks for covering this new garden, Janine, and telling a wonderful story.

  2. Hi Janine,
    Thanks for your interest in the garden. One correction from the article is that Avanti funds purchased four of the raised beds (GRuB the other six.)