Digging Into Community with Mudbone Grown
By Molly Elwood, KEEN senior copywriter
There are a lot of things to love about working for KEEN: Coworkers who share a love for the outdoors, working in a cool space, writing about adventure all the time. But my favorite discovery is that the brand’s values aren’t just some outward-facing headline. We do a lot of great stuff on a large scale—and each of us can take part (especially with 40 hours of volunteer time off every year).
An Oregon Food Bank Collaboration
Next door to the Oregon Food Bank is a parcel of land that’s been home to a learning garden and a 1-acre community farm. In 2017, the farming operations were handed over to Mudbone Grown, a new urban food systems project—"a black-owned farm enterprise that promotes intergenerational community-based farming that creates measurable and sustainable environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts in communities."
We want to share the love of growing food with our community.
Not only is Mudbone Grown providing families in need with healthy, homegrown vegetables, but this piece of land is also helping teens, young adults, and low-income communities develop career skills through apprenticeships and school programs. They also offer gardening classes; plus, the community garden space is available to those who have lost valuable gardening space due to gentrification in this everchanging city.
“We want to share the love of growing food with our community,” Shantae Johnson, Unity Farm Manager, told the Oregon Food Bank. “It is also important to change the narrative of what it means to be a farmer, especially for those in the black community.”
A Growing Partnership
Mark Steinbuck, our KEEN Effect grants and community specialist, learned about Mudbone Grown from the Oregon Food Bank. His first plan of action? Getting a dozen pairs of KEEN shoes to regular Mudbone Grown volunteers. Check. His next plan? Getting KEEN volunteers out in the field.
On a sunny Friday in October, members of the KEEN marketing department spent a day laying rows of burlap sacks and weeding. As an urban gardener myself, this was the volunteer opportunity I’d been looking forward to. There’s nothing I like more than seeing growing things and getting my hands in the soil—and doing it for a good cause is a definite bonus.
Giving Through Gardening
As we went along, row by row, I admit it: John Denver’s sappy Garden Song looped in my head. (Crows were definitely watching hungrily from trees.) The other thing on my mind was all the good Mudbone Grown has to offer the community…and they’re doing it through something as therapeutic as gardening. It's one thing for people to get the chance to volunteer a bit here and there, but this organization is offering so much through their training programs.
Mudbone Grown definitely inspired me. I had no idea we could mix a love of gardening with volunteering. Honestly, up until writing this blog post, I didn’t know community gardens donated to local food banks—or that you could volunteer without requesting a plot for yourself. By the end of the day, I realized KEEN had done more than offer an afternoon of sun and soil. It planted the seeds (sorry not sorry) for getting me more involved in my community.
How You Can Help
If you're interested to know whether there is a community garden or similar program near you, contact your local food bank. Or, Google "community garden" volunteer food bank plus the name of your state.
Thank you to freelance videographer Noah Thompson and Oregon Food Bank videographer Lindsay Trapnell for supplementing photos for this blog post.