Mei-Yu~ Oregon

Someone stole the cabbage! Seriously, someone stole the giant cabbage, some smaller cabbages, and bok choy. That was what happened to Mei Yu Leung the first year that she started growing food in a community garden plot in Salem, Oregon, after becoming a Katie’s Krops Grower.

Fortunately, Mei Yu persevered. After all, she was the child who decided four years ago, when she was eight years old, to support her community by organizing two food drives at school. She followed that up by joining a community garden with her family, where they donated some of the produce they raised even before they read about Katie’s Krops online.

Those efforts, for now, 12-year-old Mei-Yu and her helping family, include growing more cabbage and bok choy as well as tomatoes, peas, strawberries, and even some carrots, although the latter has not been as successful as hoped. The majority of her crops are donated to Table of Plenty, a food pantry associated with the Marion Polk Food Share program. Additionally, she also makes direct donations to people in need. Mei Yu enjoys gardening for its own sake, saying it makes her happy; helping others is a bonus to her.

One of the community garden benefits is that the produce from some trees and garden plots is available for all gardeners to take as needed. By doing this, Mei Yu could have additional produce to share, including cucumbers, zucchini, cherries, grapes, blueberries, and apples.

Every gardener runs into problems, such as the slug infestation among the cabbages and bok choy one year. Unfortunately, Mei Yu ran into another crisis in 2020 that most never experience – wildfires. The fires that raged in much of Oregon made it virtually impossible to grow or pick anything starting in September because there was too much smoke to stay, let alone work, outside for more than a few minutes. This shortened harvest time by six to eight weeks.

As plans are made for 2021, it would appear that the days of cabbage theft are over. Mei Yu and her family, including her 4-year-old sister Lucida currently in training as a garden helper, now live in a house with a yard, complete with a fig tree. Again, this year’s gardens, supported by Katie’s Krops, will be an experiment on whether more is grown in the raised beds they are building or in a planned in-ground garden plot. In addition to growing the same items as they did at the community garden, mom Jackie is planning to add some hot peppers to the front garden beds. The family wants to try growing taro once they find enough information on how to do so. New beds might require more than the 10-15 hours that Mei-Yu spends setting up the garden each spring, but she won’t be traveling to the community garden to do so. She’ll also be able to keep a closer eye on the garden and get those slugs before too much damage is done.