Meridian community garden is a 'hidden nugget' that brings people together By Holly Beech email@example.com HollyBeechMP Aug 10, 2017 (…) The Meridian community garden has donated close to 1,000 pounds of food to the Meridian Food Bank this season. The harvest also goes to roughly 30 families in the Meridian Co-op Gardeners group. Courtesy of Juli Bokenkamp The Meridian community garden is run by the Meridian Co-op Gardeners on the southeast corner of Kleiner Park. Courtesy of Juli Bokenkamp Meridian’s community garden is on almost an acre on the southeast corner of Kleiner Park. Courtesy of Juli Bokenkamp Children learn about gardening topics in a class offered by the Meridian Co-op Gardeners. Courtesy of Juli Bokenkamp The Meridian Co-op Gardeners group consists of 30 families who volunteer their time at the community garden each week. Courtesy of Juli Bokenkamp Over the years, the Meridian Co-op Gardeners have grown basil, cabbage, broccoli, melons, carrots, peppers, squash, tomatoes and more. Courtesy of Juli Bokenkamp Some of the flowers grown at the Meridian community garden are delivered to residents at nearby assisted living facilities. Courtesy of Juli Bokenkamp When Juli Bokenkamp had to undergo cancer treatment three years ago, she worried that she would have to give up something she loved — managing Meridian’s community garden.What she discovered, though, is that the garden kept her going.“(It) encouraged me to find other alternatives for healing and taking care of myself,” Bokenkamp told the Meridian Press in an email. × Advertisement She’s now in her fifth year of running the garden, which she calls a “hidden nugget” on the southeast corner of Kleiner Park.“We have just under an acre and we pretty much grow everything,” Bokenkamp said. “Each year we add some new varieties to try.”The group of volunteers who work the garden are called the Meridian Co-op Gardeners, and they have a Facebook page by the same name.The garden feeds the 30 families in the co-op, with enough produce left over for the Meridian Food Bank. The co-op donated more than 6,000 pounds of food last year, Bokenkamp said.“My passion is feeding people healthy food and taking care of our health using food,” she said.The families put in at least three to four hours of work in the garden a week, with group work times scheduled for Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.People passing by often pause with interest, Bokenkamp said. The co-op has already started a waiting list for next year.The gardeners enjoy a chance to unplug from technology and feel like they’re part of something bigger, Bokenkamp said.COLLABORATIONThe garden is a cooperative effort involving families, local businesses, the city of Meridian, church pantries and the Meridian Food Bank, according to the Meridian Co-op Gardeners 2016 report.It’s also where people can fulfill court-ordered volunteer hours through the Ada County Sheriff’s Office alternative sentencing program.“It’s a place of redemption, and maybe even learning a new life skill along with knowledge of how fresh food can be grown,” the report said. “Many have said that working in the garden is their favorite place to put in their required hours.”Last year, the alternative sentencing detail worked one day a month at the garden from May to October.“They were instrumental in helping to take down the garden in October,” the report said.GARDEN PROGRAMSThe Meridian Co-op Gardeners have launched several creative initiatives, including:The Lil’ Gardeners program, which offers classes to children in the co-op about garden rules, plants, insects, weeding, harvesting and so on.Flower delivery from the garden to assisted living facilities around the Meridian area.Educational garden demonstrations, such as how to make sauerkraut using the cabbage in the garden, making avocado mayo, how to use the garden produce to make backpacking meals, and how to make freezer jam.The garden recently hosted its first “Breakfast at the Garden,” Bokenkamp said. Two members offered to cook breakfast before a Saturday workday, “allowing us to relax, spend time and catch up with other gardeners,” she said.Some of the gardeners have been in the co-op for three to five years together. They chat on the phone, hike together, have lunch and attend events, Bokenkamp said.“My goal has always been to create community and to educate others about gardening,” she said. “The garden is the perfect place to do both.”As far as her health goes, Bokenkamp said she's doing fine now."Still building up my stamina," she said, "but the garden keeps me going." More from this section 3 Meridian companies named to Inc. 5000 list Posted: Aug. 18, 2017 Why the 'incredibly strong' demand in Ada County's housing market? Posted: Aug. 16, 2017 Meridian company Verified First lands at No. 198 on Inc. 5000 list Posted: Aug. 16, 2017 Idaho State University president to retire next year Posted: Aug. 15, 2017 Allstate, Boy Scouts and Boise Bicycle Project team up for Recycle Your Cycle Posted: Aug. 15, 2017 HollyBeechMP Follow HollyBeechMP Close Get email notifications on HollyBeechMP daily! Your notification has been saved. There was a problem saving your notification. Whenever HollyBeechMP posts new content, you'll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link. Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items. Save Manage followed notifications Follow HollyBeechMP Close Followed notifications Please log in to use this feature Log In Don't have an account? Sign Up Today Comments Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language. PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK. Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated. Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything. Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person. Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts. Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article. Latest E-Edition Meridian Press Read the latest edition of the Meridian Press in our e-edition format, which combines the familiarity of the printed-paper format with the convenience of reading on your phone, tablet or desktop computer from anywhere. Issues prior to August 18, 2016 YouReport This is your chance to be the reporter. Tell us what's going on with you, your kids, and your community. Share your child's latest achievements, talk about that pothole that never gets fixed, or just speak your mind on what is happening in your community. Submit Your Articles Share the news that is important to you and your community. Post articles about local events, sports teams, community organizations, and more! Submit Your Photos Do you have a great local photo that you want to share with the world? Add it here!