Community gardens a growing trend in the Basin

The trend of community gardens is springing up all over the nation. Within San Juan County, several community gardens offer an outlet for gardening lovers to share their skills and devote their time to the community.

A community garden is any piece of land that is gardened by a group of people. There are around seven in the area, including the community gardens in Shiprock, Aztec’s Senior Center, Bonnie Dallas Senior Center in Farmington, and the San Juan County Juvenile Services Facility.

Members of the Dirt Diggers Gardening Club proudly show off the gardens at Bonnie Dallas. From left to right: Vera Vigil, Louise Hubbell, LaVonda Schutz, Celeste Douthit, and LaLa Dunlap.

“I had no idea there were so many,” said Paula Davis, manager at the Farmington Growers’ Market.

Davis, who has been gardening since she was young, believes community gardens are a contribution to the community. “I think it is very empowering to grow your own food.”

Joann Clifford, president of Sustainable San Juan, helped establish the community garden at the Aztec Senior Center.

“People who know about gardening have a chance to show their work – people who don’t know can be enlightened,” Clifford said.

The concept of community gardens is still unknown to many people. Clifford explained that only a handful of individuals volunteer at the garden and she encourages the public to come help grow the vegetables and flowers.


Bonnie Dallas Senior Center gardens

“You’re only as old as you feel,” said Celeste Douthit, president of the Dirt Diggers Gardening Club at the Bonnie Dallas Senior Center. Douthit and nine other members exert youthful energy by doing what they love. Three years ago, the members started a vegetable garden at Bonnie Dallas.

“It’s very calming doing this,” said Vera Vigil, a member of the gardening club.

Along the side of the Annex building at Bonnie Dallas there is a stretch of gardens with dozens of various vegetables: cucumbers, green chile, tomatoes, onions, squash, and parsley, to name a few. The vegetable seeds were planted in March.

“This is very relaxing and intimate. You get to see where our food comes from. It comes directly from the garden and onto our tables. There is no middleman,” Douthit explained.

“You never know what is going to happen in a garden. Some come up and some don’t,” said Lala Dunlap, a member of the gardening club.

Judi Ziegler, member and sponsor of the gardening club, introduced the technique of square foot gardening. “It’s practically unknown,” Douthit said.

Square foot gardening is a garden bed that requires a smaller space than the conventional row gardens. It is easier to maintain and the weeding is minimal.

Douthit said the members take turns watering the garden every week. She encourages more members to join.


San Juan County

Juveniles Services

Facility gardens

Sarah Teofanov, a master gardener in Farmington, has a love for the natural world. She donates her time to the community by sitting at the Farmington Growers’ Market every Saturday morning to answer questions people may have about gardening.

“I was just fascinated by how things grew and how things happened out in the natural world.”

With her skills and knowledge of gardening, she volunteers at the San Juan County Juvenile Services Facility every Tuesday and Thursday morning to teach juveniles the steps in growing a garden.

“It is a really nice, educational experience for the gentlemen,” Teofanov said.

The gardens at the facility were planted in February and the vegetables are just beginning to be harvested for the juveniles to pick and enjoy. They cook the vegetables every Friday night; cabbage soup and salsa with green chile peppers are a couple of recipes that have already been tested. 

Annual herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and various types of flowers are a few of the many plants within the gardens.

“I’m trying to create a larger picture for them,” Teofanov explained. Along with showing how to properly plant seeds, she is teaching them where the water comes from and how to save the seeds and recycle them later.

Teofanov emphasized that master gardeners are readily available as a resource to answer any questions about gardening.

The Farmington Growers’ Market is open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Saturday and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Tuesday at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

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