When Grass Valley resident Gabrielle Boulard looked across her barren yard filled with burnt grass, she saw potential.
Now the former registered nurse of more than 25 years has a lawn filled with 350 buckets of growing produce as part of her mission to provide food for those in need.
The initial idea to grow crops in buckets came from a trip to nearby Save Mart Supermarket, Boulard said.
“I was walking by their bakery and saw that one of the workers took a bucket and plopped goo into a bowl to frost cakes, and I thought, food-grade plastic buckets … I wonder if they’d let me have some. The ladies in the bakery taught me to grow tomatoes using the buckets.”
A year later, the garden is growing strong, with year-round produce, Boulard said, including leafy greens such as kale and romaine lettuce, as well as tomatoes, corn and carrots and herbs such as basil and dill.
Boulard is a representative of the Sierra Center for Spiritual Living and a board member for Interfaith Food Ministry, where she donates the produce.
Boulard’s nursing background instilled in her the significance of nutrition, she said.
“I saw people at the end result of bad lifestyle choices, which populate most of the ICU,” she said. “It’s really personal. I watched people suffer and die prematurely, and I believe nutrition is absolutely critical to longevity and quality of life.”
Interfaith has also prioritized this with its hunger to health initiative, which focuses on providing fresh and high-quality produce.
Boulard became especially interested in helping Interfaith after the organization had to reduce its food giveaway from once a week to every other week.
“We were feeding so many families who had issues with traffic and crowding, and I felt very bad about it,” she said. “At the same time, I was living in a house with no landscaping, looking at the beige weeds in the backyard, and after a while it dawned on me — that’s a big empty space, with a nice fence, with no deer around.”
Part of the appeal of a bucket garden, Boulard said, is that it can be done with a small amount of space.
“Even if you can’t have a big garden but can get some food-grade buckets, you can grow some food that way.”
Boulard sees her bucket garden as a demonstration model for others who might want to start a community garden on unused land with available space.
Boulard’s garden could not have been possible without the support of the community, she said, from the Save Mart employees who generated the idea to the local organizations who donated supplies.
B and C True Value donated perlite, used for seedling mix, and rooting hormone vitamin B-1. Rare Earth offered a 15-percent discount, and various people donated seeds and materials.
“It just all happens in little pieces here and there,” she said. “What I like about this whole process is it’s an answer to the simple question, ‘What can I do?’ that is affordable. It’s been a beautiful experience, and we’ll be expanding again in my back yard.”
Interfaith will move in the next few months from its 551 Whiting St. location in Grass Valley to the larger space at 440 Henderson St., near the Beam Easy Living Center in Grass Valley.
“We’ll have enough space to teach classes and be proactive about helping people with food issues and possibly teach some classes about simple self-sufficiency skills,” Boulard said.
For more information, contact Interfaith Food Ministry at 530-273-8132.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.