The sunflowers reached for the sky. The budding green pumpkins hung heavily from their stalks. The pea pods hid while the tomatoes flaunted their red skins.
Only months after the seeds went in the ground, Payson’s first Community Garden is something out of a storybook.
On Saturday, dozens of residents toured the garden during a three-hour open house.
Acting as story narrator, Roger Kreimeyer, who was instrumental in the garden’s creation, proudly pointed out where hundreds of pumpkins are taking shape and should be ready for picking by Halloween.
Toward the back of the garden, Kreimeyer showed how Mayor Kenny Evans’ plot has come back after crows decimated it and in the center of field, how a hydroponic garden is producing some of the strongest plants.
Where there were empty plots, gardeners planted rows and rows of corn bringing a small bit of Iowa farmland to the Mogollon Rim.
All of this sprung from once a dry, dusty piece of unwanted ground off Tyler Parkway.
The field is now home to nearly a hundred garden plots, individually tended by residents. Some people have years of gardening experience and for some, it is there first time looking after a plot. Remarkably, every garden patch is producing.
Kreimeyer said gardeners have built a cooperative, helping each other with weeding, planting and growing questions.
Things have been growing so well, in fact, the garden has produced enough surplus for Kreimeyer to make bi-weekly donation drops at local food banks.
Several thousand pounds of fresh produce has already been donated in just a few weeks and Kreimeyer estimates donations will continue through the growing season.
Food bank officials say needy residents are eating up the fresh stock. It is rare for the food bank to hand out fruits and vegetables, given cost restraints.
Donating to the food banks was part of the garden’s design. Kreimeyer asked each gardener if they were willing to donate a small share of their harvest. All agreed, and some, like the mayor, are donating nearly everything their plot produces.
Next year, Kreimeyer hopes to grow the community garden further. A large corner of the garden sits barren, enough room for another 100 plots.