Members of the Thane Community Garden hold a sign and pose for a group photo at the location of where the new communal garden is being constructed just outside of downtown Juneau over the Sheep Creek bridge. (Courtesy Photo / Judy Sherburne)

Members of the Thane Community Garden hold a sign and pose for a group photo at the location of where the new communal garden is being constructed just outside of downtown Juneau over the Sheep Creek bridge. (Courtesy Photo / Judy Sherburne)

New community garden coming to downtown neighborhood

Seeds are expected to be planted next month.

Community gardens do grow more than vegetables, according to Judy Sherburne. They also foster connections among gardeners allowing interpersonal relationships to blossom.

That’s why Sherburne, a Juneau resident, has been working diligently over the last two years to bring a garden to Juneau’s Thane neighborhood as a way of strengthening her community.

“As we’ve made progress here over the last couple of years, I’ve come to discover the value of community gardening,” Sherburne said. “There’s real value in having a garden that people from the surrounding neighborhood can use as a place of coming together, a focal point, gathering and learning from each other, people who know how to garden teaching people who don’t know how to garden, and just sharing day-to-day gardening stuff, so it becomes a community focal point.”

With two community gardens already existing in the Juneau area, Sherburne said the Thane Community Garden, which will be located on the left hand side of the road just after crossing the bridge over Sheep Creek, is intended for people living closer to the downtown area and further away from the larger, more well-known Juneau Community Garden located in the Mendenhall Valley.

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As the Thane Community Garden president, Sherburne said she’s hoping to have seeds planted by May 15 as the group continues to wrap up fundraising efforts. The garden currently houses 20 outside beds with more space being made available within a greenhouse. Sherburne said while there is a $50 annual fee and the application period officially ended on April 1, those interested in gardening with Thane Community Garden are still encouraged to reach out in order to be placed on a waiting list for next season.

Additionally, Sherburne said she wants the new garden to be about more than just growing fresh organic vegetables. She hopes to capitalize on what she sees as a movement in which the idea of people being more connected to their food source is becoming more popular.

“We’ve gone from people who lived here subsisting off of this land in Alaska, back in the early 1900s something like 60% of the land was used for gardening, to now we’re down to less than 5%. So, now that we have this all-time low of gathering and growing our own food, people are not only wanting gardens in their backyards, they are wanting to do it communally and having the benefit of learning from each other and getting to know your neighbors, but also that they can be eating off of that food over a longer period of time, so it lends itself to food security,” Sherburne said. “People don’t really have a sense of food security until they go into the grocery store after we’ve missed a barge or two and it’s dramatic how quickly the shelves can go empty in Juneau. We are almost entirely dependent on food coming up from the Lower 48. Even though this is one little garden, having as many little gardens as possible within our community, that kind of notion is starting to build and is very popular.”

Thane Community Garden Vice President Lauren Smoker said it was for similar reasons she found herself volunteering to get involved after reading an email sent out to members of the neighborhood from Sherburne. Smoker, who has lived in Juneau for 30 years and has been active within gardening clubs in the past, said this will be the first time she’s lived within close proximity of a communal garden.

“When I read her email I thought it would be a great idea, so I told her I was very interested and would help her work towards that goal. We’ve been working together for a couple of years now trying to get it all squared away. It hasn’t been a quick process, but we’re now actually at the part where we’re starting to clear it and getting a fence put up, so it’s all pretty exciting,” Smoker said. “Community gardens are meant to be very easily accessible so that you can walk or ride your bike to it, it’s part of your community and just right down the road, so the more of them that we have available, the better.”

For additional information, emails can be sent to thanecommunitygarden@gmail.com or from the website at Thanecga.com, though much like the garden, the website is still currently under construction.

“If we could just be one more little notch on that belt of promoting community gardens in Juneau and Southeast Alaska then we’re making a little bit more progress towards taking care of ourselves and our communities,” Sherburne said.

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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