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The dream: To bring our passion for gardening and community back to Benji's home town in the central Oregon high desert. Read more

Sisters, OR Food
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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on March 18, 2013.

The dream: To bring our passion for gardening and community back to Benji's home town in the central Oregon high desert.

Sisters, OR Food
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About this project

OUR VISION

We want to start an organic garden in Sisters, Oregon. This garden will not only provide food for the local community, but we will use the space to experiment with climate-specific, useful plants, including rare edible perennials, herbs, and heirloom vegetables.

Our friends, the Tehans, are letting us use about an acre of their land in exchange for some help around the property. With them, we share the vision of creating gardens as educational spaces. Our garden will encompass an outdoor classroom that can be used to work with local schools or any other interested groups. We will also have garden beds available for kids to plant in.  We envision creating a garden where our community can come to learn and experience the joys of gardening and horticulture. Our garden site is just a few minutes' walk from downtown Sisters, so accessibility will be easy.

We also will actively save seeds from our hardiest and best-performing plants. Last season in California, we saved seed from nearly one hundred plant species. We feel that this is one of the most important pieces to gardening and maintaining biodiversity.

The name Mahonia comes from the botanical name for Oregon Grape. This plant is useful and powerful in many ways. Its bark is used as a yellow dye while its berries dye purple. It has rich medicinal value, its berries are edible, and it is common all over our home turf!

Part of our back yard garden in Ashland, Oregon
Part of our back yard garden in Ashland, Oregon

SETTING

Sisters is situated east of the Cascades in central Oregon, right where the mountains meet the high desert.  It is a challenging growing climate—high altitude, short growing season, cold winters—which is why not many farms and gardens currently exist here. Benji grew up in Sisters and, after living in other more garden-friendly areas, feels a personal challenge to expand the availability of local foods in this area.

We already have a beautiful acre of irrigated land to use—now we just need supplies. That’s where you come in. With your help, we want to buy quality tools, a greenhouse, compost and soil amendments, and seeds.

Blank slate for Mahonia Gardens!
Blank slate for Mahonia Gardens!

OUR MOTIVATION

We met in Ashland, Oregon while both pursuing bachelor's degrees in Environmental Studies. We quickly connected over a shared passion for gardening, local, organic foods, and a simple, holistic lifestyle. All through college, we supported ourselves by working in gardens and on small farms.

In studying the environment and its relationship to human behavior, we recognize that a fundamental problem in the world is our precarious global food system. The issues associated with our food system are staggering in number and magnitude. Obesity and diabetes rates in the US and beyond are skyrocketing; soil and water resources are being rapidly degraded; people in developing nations are starving and dependent on foreign aid; our oceans, lakes and rivers are heavily polluted.

These and countless other serious problems are very much interrelated and, in many ways, begin with what we eat. We have come to view food and what we put into our bodies as our primary medicine. We believe in voting with our dollars every time we eat to support a food system that is beneficial to our health, our communities, and our environment.

Garden beds at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, where Benji apprenticed in 2012. <photo by Tali Aiona>
Garden beds at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, where Benji apprenticed in 2012. <photo by Tali Aiona>

BUDGET

After years of experience with all sorts of hand tools, we have found that it is worth the extra bucks to get the best-quality. I can't tell you how many cheap forks and shovels we have broken and replaced--certainly enough to buy one high-quality counterpart that would last. We have also decided to budget for several of most tools, in order to be prepared for work parties, etc.

  • Wheelbarrows x 2                                       = $400
  • Digging Forks x 4                                        = $300
  • Spades x 4                                                  = $300
  • Broadfork* x 1                                             = $240
  • Shovels x 4                                                  = $300
  • Digging bar x 1                                            =   $50
  • Greenhouse                                               = $1000
  • Irrigation (hoses, drip line, sprinklers)          = $500
  • Fencing                                                        = $500
  • Potting soil & Amendments                          = $500
  • Bee hive                                                       = $200
  • Seeds & Plants                                             = $400
  • Produce Refrigeration                                  = $300            
  • Tool Shed                                                      =$500
  • Initial Labor Boost                                       = $1000
  • Mahonia Gardens t-shirts                             = $500
  • Other/Unexpected costs                               = $500
  • Kickstarter & Amazon fees (8-10%)             = $600
  • Total                                                           = $8090

* A broad fork is kind of like a high-caliber digging fork that makes hand-tilling much faster and easier. Fork more info, see meadowcreature.com

Digging forks at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. Many of these forks are 30 years old. <photo by Tali Aiona>
Digging forks at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. Many of these forks are 30 years old. <photo by Tali Aiona>

Risks and challenges

Produce is not a high-roller's commodity. Anyone who chooses to grow food on a small scale is doing it for reasons beyond the piggy bank. Until the government transfers subsidies away from corporate agriculture, small farms will be economically unstable.

This surely will be a challenge for us as well-- long-term economic sustainability. For the first few years of our endeavor, beyond the initial establishment of the garden plots, we will most likely be working other jobs to make a living.

The other risks and challenges will be more unexpected when they surface, which we're sure they will. These will be challenges associated with climate, the land and its features. Possibly little tiny challenges: mites and slugs; or the neighborhood gopher and her grandfather; or a "tired, lost deer who needs a place to rest and have a snack". We will prepare to the best of our ability for these challenges, but as gardeners know, we will have to take them on when they come.

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FAQ

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    24 backers

    With a donation of $1-$25 we will offer an equal value of vegetables, plants, or seeds from our garden as availability allows. Offerings will vary based on seasonal fluctuations.

    For those who live farther away, we can send you seeds saved from the garden.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    41 backers

    For a donation of $25 or more we will send you a Mahonia Gardens t-shirt along with a packet of vegetable or herb seeds that we have grown and saved.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    27 backers

    Both of the above rewards--that is, a t-shirt plus up to $75 worth of produce, plants, and seeds. OR, 2 t-shirts and up to $50 of produce, plants, and seeds. Your choice!

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    17 backers

    For $100-$500, if you live in the area, we can offer our horticultural services, assistance or mentoring.
    This can include a walk-through consultation of your land, planting your garden, pruning of your trees, general landscaping, weeding (but not spraying), or any needs specific to your landscape.
    We can offer 1 hour per $25 donation.

    If you live out of town, we can offer phone/internet consultation instead, and/or t-shirts, depending on the donation level.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    1 backer

    We will come to your house or a house of your choosing and cook a farm-to-table feast for you and your family or three guests--using, of course, as much produce as possible from Mahonia Gardens. And we'll throw in a t-shirt. This option is available in Oregon only.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    1 backer

    We'll give you the feast described above, plus t-shirts for you and your family or friends, plus $100 of plants, produce, and seeds, plus four hours of consultation or work in your garden or landscape from the two of us!

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States

Funding period

- (26 days)