Oasis Garden grows vegetables -- and friendships in Springfield

Adriel Jones and daughter Cai tend to her plot at Jefferson Street Oasis Community Garden in preparation for celebrating the garden's 10th anniversary with the Grilling in the Garden and Garden Tour event on Saturday. The community is invited to attend the admission-free event. BRETT TURNER / CONTRIBUTED
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Adriel Jones and daughter Cai tend to her plot at Jefferson Street Oasis Community Garden in preparation for celebrating the garden's 10th anniversary with the Grilling in the Garden and Garden Tour event on Saturday. The community is invited to attend the admission-free event. BRETT TURNER / CONTRIBUTED

Event this weekend marks 10 years.

The Jefferson Street Oasis Community Garden is a place you could easily pass by and not notice. Located in an urban area among houses, apartment buildings and a former school, it puts the emphasis on oasis.

The garden will celebrate a decade of growing healthy foods, meeting the area’s food insecurity issues, camaraderie and learning with its annual Grilling in the Garden and Garden Tour, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 1100 Jefferson St.

Admission is free, and donations to support the garden will be accepted. Highlights will include grilling vegetables from the garden to sample, tours of the garden, gardeners talking about their experiences and plots, food and nutrition classes, games and other activities.

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Rain has been plentiful in 2021, producing bountiful vegetables among the 80 plots over nearly two acres tended by 70 gardeners, who are excited to share it with the community. Growing friendships are as important as growing produce, said Mary Crabtree, who founded Oasis with Terry Fredrich and Sherry Chen.

“People who come here have passion. It’s more than just a place to grow; it’s the social interaction,” she said. “It’s where we share recipes and things we do with produce. Relationships are a big part of what we do.”

Visitors can expect several options, including chicken poop bingo, a charity guessing game. They’ll be greeted by a display of 10 stories of gardeners and photos to mark 10 years, a project put together by a Wittenberg student.

They can view recently added areas, including a kids’ gardening area with cottage, pollinator garden, an area for raising chickens and a poly house for off-season growing.

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Education is part of the garden’s mission. The former school next to the garden, The Ark, contains an after-school program in which kids come work here and other area students worked here to gain on-the-job experience.

The Oasis Garden group has also been influential in helping other area programs, including the recently opened Promise Grows Visioning Garden. Crabtree said some gardeners call their time here a mental health break, allowing a quiet and even a spiritual experience.

Adriel Jones has been gardening at Jefferson Street for six years, also becoming a board member, and will share her story with visitors. A breast cancer survivor, she turned to growing her own veggies to help stay healthy and found more.

She includes her kids in gardening activities and is inspired to start a new food program in the future.

“Being part of this has helped me find my purpose,” Jones said. “People think it’s so hard, but it’s not. I don’t like going to the gym, but I can work out here all day.”

Crabtree and Oasis members are focused on the garden’s next decade, also. Plans include raising money for a story walk, where families can read a story outside the garden and follow along a path, along with a solar house project for more year-round growing.

Attendees who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are asked to wear masks or to stay home if experiencing symptoms.

HOW TO GO

What: Grilling in the Garden and Garden Tour

Where: Jefferson Street Oasis Community Garden, 1100 Jefferson St., Springfield

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 31

Admission: Free; donations accepted

More info: www.facebook.com/jeffersonstreetoasis/