Clark Park Community Garden lies in one of Tempe’s oldest neighborhoods. And while the area, commonly referred to as “West of Mill,” has deep roots within the city, many community members are working to ensure it sees an even richer future.
The community garden is the result of a collaborative effort between the Clark Park and Marilyn Ann Neighborhood Associations and Tempe Community Action Agency, which was created in 2014 at the site of a former municipal pool. The mission of this group is to grow plants and extend community roots by providing access to healthy, locally grown food as a means to enhance relationships within the neighborhood.
Clark Park Community Garden promotes and provides environmental sustainability and land stewardship, educational and social opportunities, and healthy supplemental food sources for its gardeners and those in need of food. And the garden’s latest partnership on the Heritage Grain Trials Project will help to ensure that the collaborative’s mission can continue to flourish for years to come.
The partnership joins Clark Park Community Garden along with the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA) to support the building of a more sustainable agriculture through the Heritage Grain Trials Project—an initiative that aims to revive the production, use, and cultural experience of locally grown heritage grains in the communities of specific regions.
The project’s ultimate goal is to create a vibrant system of farmers, millers, bakers, and brewers throughout the Mountain West who can give new life to ancient grain varieties and ensure this diversity is preserved for generations to come.
“We are learners and teachers who find that life is more fulfilling when we can help to deliver a more robust, drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, nutrient-dense food source to our communities. The Heritage Grain Trials Project does just that,” says Joan Baron, environmental artist and gardener. “We selected six different grains to plant in our Community Garden. Once we prepared the soil, we gathered together, blessed the land and the seeds, and planted Tibetan Purple Barley, Einkorn Wheat, and Amaranth, to name a few. We were provided with 100 seeds of each.”
Once successful in growing the grains, the goal is to return at least 200 seeds of each Heritage Grain back to RMSA so that they can continue to disperse and test with other garden and farming communities around the United States.
The partnership will ultimately help to increase seed in a time when seeds are getting harder to secure. “Grains are the basis for healthy diets. They have a lower gluten content and are easier to digest. They also provide a larger array of vitamins and minerals, and have a much higher percentage of protein than regular wheat.”
Locally grown grains are the missing component in most regional food systems—and through the Heritage Grain Trials Project, gardeners across the country are hoping to change that.