Two banquet-size tables groaned with the weight of dishes savory and sweet on Saturday, prepared from the bounty harvested from the Payson Community Garden.
Northern Gila County Fair prize-winning pickles sat next to delectable tomato marmalade and homemade bread. Savory pasta dishes with sweet peppers, home-grown onions and tomatoes and salads with winter crops completed the savory.
The sweet exceeded expectations.
Zucchini crisp that tasted better than apple crisp, squash pie and cake that melted in the mouth and watermelon from the garden that tasted as sweet as the heart in every bite.
As the community gardeners ate with gusto, Roger Kriemeyer got up to praise everyone for the successes of the season.
“This year, the garden tripled its production with better soil and improved gardening knowledge,” he said.
The official tally of donations to area food banks? 10,000 pounds.
Kriemeyer believes gardeners produced between 20,000 and 25,000 pounds overall.
“I estimate each plot produced 150 pounds of food,” said Kriemeyer.
And the community got to see and judge the results at the Northern Gila County Fair. “Community gardeners brought home about 25 ribbons,” said Kriemeyer.
During the dinner, he had each winning gardener stand- up, list the number of ribbons they received and for what. Too many to list!
Donations increased as well. This year the garden received a generous donation of rich soil and the variety of manure expanded. Kriemeyer said he has no idea how many ranchers/farmers have brought in manure and dumped it outside the garden gates.
Kriemeyer said the community is welcome to come and grab a pickup truck full to help prepare gardens for the spring. Those who garden in the community may also take a load of wood chips, too.
This year, with the proceeds from the pumpkin patch from last year, the Community Garden added the hydroponic gardening station, a building to hold tools and other supplies, and improvements to the watering system.
“From any proceeds this year, we may expand the pumpkin patch,” said Kriemeyer. The pumpkin patch will open for business on Saturday, Oct. 5.
Kriemeyer ended his presentation praising the gardeners for clearly improving their knowledge and skills.
“They’re going to the Saturday classes and putting their knowledge to good use,” he said.
He called the garden a university. If the Harvest Dinner were the final exam, all got As!