Thieves target Arlington’s community garden

Green thumbs at Arlington’s Community Garden have a hard enough time keeping pests and invasive plants away from their vegetables.

ARLINGTON — Green thumbs at Arlington’s Community Garden have a hard enough time keeping pests and invasive plants away from their vegetables.

Lately, they’ve had to deal with produce thieves as well.

“I think it’s the hard times that are making it tough for people,” said Bea Randall, community garden coordinator. “This is worse than it’s ever been.”

Zucchinis, squash and other items have been disappearing from the garden, which is located across the street from the Arlington Public Library on North Washington Avenue.

Randall said she thinks the culprits are individuals who are struggling to put food on their tables, so they have resulted to taking items from the garden.

“There are a lot of people who are living in their cars who come by here,” she said. “It’s not always at night — sometimes they’re taking things in the middle of the day.”

While the majority of the thefts are intentional, the garden’s name may play a role in the disappearing produce.

Some residents might think that because it is called Arlington Community Garden, produce from the 26 gardening plots can be used by whomever.

To eliminate any confusion, volunteers are hoping to erect a sign that would change the garden’s name to Arlington Food Bank Garden.

The name change would give people a better idea of where they’re stealing from, Randall said.

While many gardeners grow items for their own benefit, community garden volunteers encourage residents to donate a portion of their fruits and vegetables to the food bank.

Any unused plots are used by Randall or other volunteers to grow items exclusively for the food bank.

Additionally, residents who want to grow items in the garden must pay a $10 annual fee, which goes directly to the food bank.

“They’re really taking things that they can get for free,” Randall said.

Sharon Moon, president of the Board for the Arlington Food Bank, said that she has not heard of an increasing number of thefts from the garden.

“We usually have an influx of fruits and vegetables from the community garden, but we usually count them as a bonus for us,” Moon said. “Any time we can give our clients fresh vegetables, it’s much healthier, but in essence we give the basics to people.”

Residents in need of assistance can visit the food bank during distribution hours. The food bank, located at 127 W. Cox Ave., is open from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and 1-2 p.m. on Fridays.

Volunteers are needed to help spread wood chips at the garden from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16. The free saw chips will be provided by Arlington-based Northwest Sawdust.

Community members interested in helping out at the community garden or renting a plot can contact Randall by calling 360-435-3892.