For the past 12 years, the Meridian Co-Op Gardeners have maintained the Kleiner Park Community Garden, located in the northeast corner of Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park. Community gardens are well known for providing space for neighbors to grow fresh, healthy food close to home. Beyond improving food access, community gardens also provide the space for powerful community-level connection. The garden’s primary focus is on organic fruits and vegetables which are shared among the 32 families who regularly tend the garden and donate generous quantities to local food banks. During 2023, more than 9,000 pounds of fresh produce were donated from the community garden to the Meridian Food Bank and Community Ministries Center.
The garden is regularly lauded for the high quality of its fruits, vegetables and flowers. The Meridian Co-Op Gardeners entered 127 items in the Western Idaho Fair last summer and took home 94 prize ribbons. They were also awarded the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award plaque which recognizes groups providing outstanding support to the fair.
Garden Director Juli Bokenkamp emphasizes that the garden is more than just producing food. It also cultivates friendships, a shared love for gardening, awareness of environmental stewardship, and community engagement. Working at the garden helps individuals of all ages deepen their understanding of horticulture, learn about sustainability, and become more sensitive to issues surrounding food insecurity. In addition to the core group of volunteer gardeners who spend an average of 3-4 hours each week in the garden, many community members contribute time and talent to other organizations including local Future Farmers of America students and participants in the Ada County Sheriff’s Alternative Sentencing Program.
Once the Kleiner Park Community Garden was flourishing, the Meridian Co-Op Gardeners were ready to do more. In 2019, they created the Kleiner Park Pollinator Garden located near the community garden. This project focused on conserving habitat and planting native trees, shrubs and flowers that help provide pollinators (i.e., bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, bats, beetles) with the food, water and shelter they need to survive. Interpretive panels throughout the garden explain the many ways that these tiny creatures are vital to our ecosystem. Pleased with the success of the pollinator garden in Kleiner Park, the Meridian Co-Op Gardeners established a pollinator garden along the west border of Meridian’s Heroes Park in 2021. With the help of a 2022 $1,500 City of Meridian Neighborhood Grant, the Heroes Park Pollinator Garden has recently been expanded both to the north and the south of the original plantings. The neighbors have been very complimentary about the project, and the new plantings have enhanced the look and feel of the park.
Preparation work is already being done at the Kleiner Park Community Garden in anticipation of the new growing season, and preparation work of a different kind is taking place as well. Specifically, plans are being made for the creation of a new community garden in south Meridian at Discovery Park. While the new garden’s specific amenities have yet to be decided, some innovative new ideas are being explored, such as raised planting boxes accessible to those who use wheelchairs or assistive devices and a section of the garden designed for those with sensory needs.
Look for updates on the Discovery Park efforts soon, and for more information about the Community Garden in Kleiner Park and their many activities and updates, please check out the Meridian Co-Op Gardeners social media page, here. You can also read their annual report, here.