Kat grows in responsibility stewarding the garden at Shepherd’s Door

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Tomatoes have been a successful crop this year.

Kat walks around the garden, checking tomato plants. “During the hot, hot weather that we had, they weren’t really liking that too much,” she said.

With a basket in hand, Kat was in the process of harvesting. “There are a lot of tomatoes that I bring in. I am out here harvesting pretty much every day.” As a result, the tomatoes from the garden have contributed to many of the lunches and dinners for the women and children at Shepherd’s Door. “I think I have 35 tomato plants,” she pointed out.

Kat is a New Life Ministries‘ participant, and she has been spending her vocational hours investing in and nurturing the plants and produce around the women’s facility on a daily basis.

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Kat does the majority of care for the garden, watering and harvesting.

Back when Kat started caring for the garden, she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing, “So it caused me to be more intentional about the job I was doing and wanting to be well informed,” she said. “This has been my first garden that I’ve done.” She is also thankful she hasn’t had to do it alone for a house of 30 women and 13 kids.

I have a volunteer that comes in, her name is Joanne,” said Kat. “She’s been coming here for about 15 years, working closely with the residents that work in the garden.” When Kat started, Joanne was out here every Monday prepping the garden for planting.

“I like working with volunteers out here. It’s good to be out in the sun and get some fresh air.”

Kat expressed a wish for more groups or individual volunteers “that like to come out and get their hands in the dirt” — especially people with gardening skills.

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Shepherd’s Door has an area known as the Children’s Garden. This space has watermelons, corn, sunflowers, tomatoes, pumpkins and cucumbers growing.

“I remember one group we had, when it was pouring down rain, who had the best attitudes,” said Kat. With rain pouring into her eyes, “I wanted to go in, but they didn’t want to. They were like ‘no, this is great!’ They really helped me get a lot of work done out here that would have probably taken me a few weeks otherwise.”

Shortly thereafter, as Kat moved confidently around the garden, she spent some more time talking about the plants — most of which was knowledge she had taught herself.

“Everything out here is organic, including the pesticides we use, fertilizers and other stuff. You can eat anything out here and be ok,” Kat explained. “I do a lot of research on the internet, I read a lot.”

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Kat harvests peppers in the garden. Several varieties are growing including Habaneros, Black Hungarian, Fireballs and Sweet Peppers.

After moving toward the pepper plants, she then started naming them, “These are Habaneros, Black Hungarians, Fireballs … They turn hotter as they redden.” She pointed to a plant from her gardening mentor. “She brought out this one right here, this is a Sweet Pepper.”

As Kat added some to her basket, she elaborated on how she hopes this gardening plays into her future.

“I will probably plant even more peppers next year then I did this year.” After graduating from New Life Ministries, Kat is considering developing the garden further during a second year in Service, which is an optional program where participants can stay at the facility and learn valuable vocational skills as they continue to solidify their recovery.

“I feel a strong sense of responsibly out here,” she said. “One of the things that I have struggled with the most in regards to my addiction, is not wanting to be engaged in my own life.”

Working in the garden has helped changed that, causing her to grow in responsibility.

“As I progress into my program here, it teaches me that as I continue to make the right choices, it is going to get better.”

Do you enjoy gardening and being outside? If so, consider volunteering with us in the garden at either Shepherd’s Door or The Harbor. Go to PortlandRescueMission.org/Volunteer for more information.