Growing hope: Work begins at the Salvation Army’s community garden in Centralia


With summer right around the corner, the Salvation Army in Centralia has begun work at the Harvesting Hope farm to make sure everyone can access fresh produce.

“Healthy bodies equal healthy communities,” Salvation Army Cpt. Gin Pack said Friday. “There’s a myriad of studies that the healthier that someone eats, or has access to those choices, then they become healthier individuals.”

This year, the Salvation Army's goal is to produce about 20,000 pounds of nutrient-dense produce on their acre-and-a-half farm, as opposed to vegetables such as potatoes or onions, which are relatively cheap but low in nutritional value.

What doesn’t get donated back into the community through the food bank is used for the nonprofit’s lunch program.

As the summer rolls along, Pack said volunteers will plant crops including brussel sprouts, squash, kale, swiss chard and cabbage, among others.

“At a food bank, people come in and they get canned produce, and there’s all of these different things added to them,” Pack said. “And to be able to give them a market experience, and inside of our food bank is like a market experience, and to be able to pick out fresh produce and not something that’s been sitting in a can, it’s fresh and usable right then.”

Throughout the summer and fall, the garden will be harvested by various community groups, churches, volunteer groups or “anyone else who wants to come and help.”

“It’s just a great opportunity for people,” Pack said.

In recent years, the field has also seen a series of upgrades thanks to several grants. With help from a grant from the Washington state Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Salvation Army recently installed a greenhouse that allows for a later harvest and new crops. Pack said the new greenhouse was built by a group of volunteers from the Twin Star Credit Union.

The new greenhouse comes after the organization previously received a Kubota tractor funded through a WSDA grant.

“We continuously try to get support through WSDA and other ways of getting support,” Pack said.