The community met in the garden for the first Thursday night concert and market held in July. Three more will be held this summer. PHOTO COURTESY MELISSA SMITH

In full bloom

Jeffers Community Garden: a verdant oasis of food, flowers and fun

Hey, what’s all the buzz about? By 8 a.m. on an early August morning honeybees were in full force at the Jeffers Community Garden, alighting upon poppies, cosmos, tomato blossoms – if it’s blooming, those bees were pollenating.

Communing with the bees amidst the rows and plots of the gardens was community gardener Burleigh Leonard, watering hose in hand. His wife, Jamie, is the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church. He was doing his husbandly duty, watering Jamie’s plot of wildflowers bursting with color and abuzz with pollinators. Their plot also includes sunflowers just readying to pop as well as carrots and squash prime for the picking.

Soon gardeners Melissa Smith and Margaret Chaika arrived on the scene. Smith manages a personal plot a visitor to the garden can’t miss: her spectrum of snapdragons, cosmos and sunflowers are loud and proud. They’re destined for bouquets to be sold at the garden’s next evening market and concert.

“We have a great time out here, it’s such a beautiful setting, with the vegetables and flowers growing,” said Smith, in reference to the live music and market events new to the garden this summer. “We think it makes a great venue.”

Many veggies are sold straight from the garden at the summer evening markets, but a large portion of the harvest is given to the Madison Valley Caring and Sharing Food Bank – they’re highly sought-after items that don’t linger on the food bank’s shelves for long.

Chaika tends to the church’s plot. She started her Monday morning spraying bird droppings off the band stage that’s blanketed in hops vines, followed by a big harvest of veggies destined for a drop off at the food bank at noon.

"I enjoy giving back to the community, and meeting wonderful people,” said Chaika, who has labored with love at the garden for over a decade.

Chaika is not a Master Gardener by study, but rather by life experience. This year she did soil studies and seed viability tests before planting in the spring, with much success and some shortfalls. The short corn stalks went in a little late, the carrots are struggling with clay-thick soil and the spinach has bolted in the heat, but all in all the plot is teeming with edible delights.

Across the way community gardeners Brian and Dawn Conklin have a large plot that’s hard to miss, teeming with blue-flowered annual herb known as borage – you can eat it, but it’s most useful as a landing pad for the bees. The Conklins have worked as missionaries in Africa, teaching students how to farm, so it’s no surprise their plot is thriving.

The garden is the place to be for Thursday concert and market nights from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The next will take place on August 5 at 5 p.m. with a performance under the hops by the Ennis City Ramblers. The garden will be ready for the picking and marketgoers can expect to find peas, beans, cucumbers, zucchinis, swiss chard, lettuce, fresh flowers and more.

The next gathering, held August 19, includes music by the Recession Special, and the last event on September 2 will present live music from Brian Conklin and Peggy Giblin.

The concerts are free and guests are invited to set up lawn chairs amidst the garden rows. Kids are welcome as well – the garden is an excellent opportunity for exploration.

Finding all this grassroots gardening inspirational? The garden has open plots and can always use some helping hands for weeding and watering.

“You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, this is a community of gardeners that actually do all this, it’s not just one person,” said Chaika. Reach out to her via text at 801- 631-5848 for more information on how to get involved.

Even those who don’t have the time to officially volunteer are welcome to drop by and stroll through the rows. “We are trying to appeal to everyone, to get people to come out and garden and enjoy the beauty of it,” said Smith.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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