If there was ever a place for the mission Jason Skipton is on, that place is Portland. It’s a mission that’s taken Jason all over the world, from Central America to North Portland, to create or assist in community gardening programs within his chosen community.
The organization he serves as the Executive Director for, Growing Gardens, describes itself as a 501c non-profit organization that “promotes home-scale organic food gardening to improve nutrition, health and self-reliance while enhancing the quality of life and the environment for individuals and communities in Portland, Oregon.”
Put simply, Growing Gardens does exactly what its name implies: It helps people grow their own food and build gardens, even if that garden happens to be in a balcony or small raised box in a tiny back yard.
With several programs aimed at community youth, Growing Gardens trains Portland kids how to be growers and what it means to respect their health and the environment – and Jason Skipton couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.
After traveling through Central America as a Peace Corps volunteer, Jason returned to Portland where he would eventually get his Master’s Degree in Public Health from Oregon State University. Upon graduation, he wasted no time getting to work and pursuing his passion.
“I immediately focused on agriculture and food production,” he says. “I did my research in La Paz, Bolivia, looking at the first urban community garden and its positive impacts on food production but also food security and community participation.”
Once he returned from South America, Jason immediately began working with Growing Gardens. He’s particularly proud of how well Growing Gardens operates amidst the negative light shining on larger non-profits with bloated administrative budgets and “missing money.”
“We are a very lean non-profit,” he asserts, with an emphasis on the very.
“Ninety-nine percent of the money that comes in goes to our programs and benefits our communities,” he says, quite proudly – and rightly so.
“We are working with a small staff, but we also work with thousands of volunteers, as we offer volunteer opportunities throughout the year in all our programs,” he says,
For any of you out there looking for summer volunteering opportunities, here you go.
Indeed, with a full-time staff of only five people and a small board, it would seem as though Growing Gardens can’t make much of an difference. Yet, they know how to make a big impact in small ways.
Take their “Chef in my Garden” series. They do six per year, with the first on July 9. These dinners, held in gorgeous private gardens around the city, feature top Portland chefs preparing delicious full-course meals, with all proceeds going to benefit programs within the organization.
Tickets are $175 and open to anyone. This year, some pretty big names grace the gardens, from Maya Lovelace of Mae to Jason French of Ned Ludd.
William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.