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You Won't Believe What Happened to Our Garden Shade Cover?

By Jillian Thompson

Our ECO Farm volunteers have been busy this month getting their Community Garden plots ready for spring. This garden has created a sense of pride in our volunteers, and a good deal of collaboration and learning. Being a New Englander, I was proud of my green thumb, but figuring out what to plant and when in the Arizona desert is humbling.

Despite many challenges, several of us are growing natural food, the bees are thriving, and our mini-farm community is growing along with our residents and volunteers. What we are learning in our community garden plots is helping us to be even more successful with our bigger market garden and greenhouse, and our food supports food justice in the community.

However, the Arizona sun is getting warmer!

Last week, I noticed some of my plants were getting dry and were slow to grow. As a non-native, living in this region for only two years, I didn't understand the importance of shade cover until now.

Excited to discover someone had pulled an old cover from the barn when we were cleaning for Earth Day, I asked two other volunteers (Teree and Kaity) to help me inspect the cloth. Dan, another volunteer, saw what we were doing, and he was really excited to get involved. The four of us discussed a plan, and were soon elbow deep in re-covering the garden with the this old, partially torn clothe. "Something's better than nothing," we all agreed and got to work.

The team spirit was motivating, and everyone's was enthusiastic about the project. This led to discussions about the best way to use the salvaged material, and how to hoist the cover.

Half-way through the project, we were all tired, hot and still troubleshooting, but we were determined finish. We kept ourselves going by envisioning how the shade cover could help the plants flourish, and even protect us from getting too much sun when we're watering and gardening.

Our enthusiasm drew the attention of two more volunteers who had been working on other farm projects that day.

Randy and Shepherd came over to help us finish the last section.

After climbing, pushing, pulling, hoisting and sweating, the Community Garden was finally covered! Knowing we were supporting our ECO Farm mission to reuse and repurpose, we gave each other an enthusiastic high-five.

Realizing, we'd eventually have to tie down the cover with ropes, we agreed we were too tired today, but would finish the project soon.

Working on the farm has taught me that Mother Nature tests your perseverance, and your determination, and it's usually when you least expect.

A few days had past since the project, and I was really enjoying the shaded space, and I could see my plants were too. But then...

It was Saturday morning when I heard the western wind whistling outside my camper. My husband and I both live on the farm, so I went down to check on the animals and gardens. As I walked down the farm road, hanging on to my hat in the wind, I looked up to see our precious shade cover almost completely blown off the frame. Seeing the ripped material, knowing how long we worked, I was frustrated. I knew we might not be able to recover the frame or use these old tarps again.

However, this fueled my determination to beat ole' Mother Nature! I used some of the torn sections of the cover, and I decided to try and cover my own bed. Resisting the wind, while gathering the material that was flying around like a kite in my hands, I finally succeeded. I let the other volunteers know, they'd probably need to do the same.

This lesson taught me that, yes, you can survive and get by when hardship blows your way. However, after seeing the value in this community garden resource, I'm driven to try and raise money for a new cover. It's that determination rising up again!

As a resident on the farm, I've seen how this farm has become a place for people to live, learn and grow. The ECO Farm is a nonprofit, and we give back to the community through donations and by providing natural healthy food.

If you're excited about seeing our Community Garden thrive, then please consider making a donation, no matter how large or small, so we can finally cover this space with a durable cover that will last!

Thank you for your help!

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