Vandals ravage community garden
Published: August 25, 2010Vandals ravage community garden
By NICOLE MONTESANO
Of the News-Register
Vandals destroyed food from several crops Sunday night at the McMinnville Community Garden, smashing some items, stealing others and engaging in apparent food fights. In some cases, crops were pulled up and left lying on the ground.
"Tomatoes, peppers, squash, carrots, raspberries, pumpkins, watermelons and cantaloupe were picked and either thrown around and smashed or taken," children's garden coordinator Janet Gahr said in a statement to police. "Most of the produce was brought to the back of the garden and smashed."
The gates were found closed. Garden organizers are speculating that the vandals may have crawled underneath the mesh deer fence. They are seeking help to keep it from happening again, and are asking neighbors to call police if they see unsupervised teen-agers in the garden.
A large portion of the food from the garden is donated to the Salvation Army's food pantry. Families that sign up grow food both for themselves and for the food pantry, and volunteers help with the donation crops.
According to garden organizers Dean and Patricia Rhodes, the garden donated more than 5,000 pounds of produce to The Salvation Army food pantry in 2009.
"We are all volunteers who livethroughout Yamhill County," Patricia Rhodes said. "We do not have the funds to hire a security guard or to install security devices at the garden. For those who committed this act of vandalism, you need to know that you have taken food out of the mouths of hungry people in Yamhill County. We are asking that you understand your actions and not do it again."
The vandals picked a giant pumpkin that a member was growing for seed. They apparently intended to take it with them, but left it under the edge of the fence around the garden, possibly finding it too heavy.
Gahr said she found the mess Monday morning, when she went to put stems in the compost pile after cutting flowers for her florist shop, Incahoots, which buys flowers from the garden.
"I was kind of discouraged," she said. "They destroyed a lot of watermelons that the kids had been growing for the food pantry. I was just in shock when I saw it."
She said the vandals apparently took some melons with them. But Gahr said some medium-sized melons remain on the vine and she has hopes they will mature in time.
Carrots one of the children was growing for the state fair were pulled up and left lying near the compost area. Significant damage was done to watermelon and canteloupe vines.
"We found tomatoes and peppers spewed about everywhere, so I think they were having a fight," Gahr said. "Having a bit of fun at our expense." One pepper plant was pulled out of the ground.
However, Gahr said the garden should still enjoy a bountiful harvest.
"There was a lot more than they could take," she said. "It's just more discouraging than anything, I think."
For more information about the garden, call Patricia Rhodes at 503-883-1735.