Slow Food Lake Tahoe is a collective of six women who are dedicated to efforts to grow and eat whole, organic foods, and also learn more about sustainability.
Of these passionate folks, Katherine Townsend-Merino is responsible for the group’s demonstration garden in Truckee Regional Park, where the community is invited to take workshops, participate in planting, harvest food, and learn the lifestyle of growing and ingesting organic foods.
“I think food is multi-faceted — that food is essential for socialization, the way that we as human beings have evolved to eating together,” Townsend-Merino says. “The step before that is the growing.”
Over the summer, the program offers free Wednesday workshops on specific topics such as general organic gardening, growing berries, and growing potatoes. Plus, there are Harvest Mondays, when the food is picked and donated to the Sierra Senior Service, Work Wednesdays, and Community Dig-In Days on the third Saturday of each month. David Long, a master gardener, leads the Wednesday workshops, teaching people how to grow throughout the Tahoe Basin. He offers an informative, fun, and easy demonstration for free, along with plant starts to grow your own.
In return, he asks participants to send back information about the success and locations of the planting. He works with growers across the country to get the plant starts he needs to share.
Gretchen Corbin, who recently volunteered to head the berry section of the garden, used to grow a large garden in Seattle. The critters and harsh environment in the Basin have made growing at home a challenge for her.
“I used to garden extensively in Seattle and it was my outlet,” she says. “Here, I’m resorting to the things the critters won’t eat, like asparagus. A lot of this I’ve learned at the demo garden. It’s super valuable.”
For Corbin, who no longer has a large edible garden at her house, gardening fills her need to connect to nature.
“There’s something really satisfying about growing your own food from start to finish and putting it back into the soil through compost,” she says.
There is something at the demo garden for all, from children to seniors, who can dig in raised beds that eliminate the need to bend over. Plus, there’s a flower garden, and there are always building projects for those who want to help with construction.
“It’s the perfect outlet for someone who’s interested but doesn’t know where to start, and wants ideas of what might grow up here, what to try, and to have resources provided to them,” Corbin says.