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Hans Koepsell, Deseret News
Ashley Patterson, executive director of Wasatch Community Gardens, speaks at the Liberty Wells Community Garden on 1700 South and 700 East in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. The community garden provides plots for 44 gardeners.

SALT LAKE CITY — It's a picturesque scene: towering sunflowers, flourishing tomato plants, thriving corn, kale, peppers, squash and basil.

The Liberty Wells Community Garden celebrated its first harvest Tuesday, bearing fresh produce for 44 families who have nurtured their plots at 1700 South and 700 East for the past five months.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski commemorated the garden's first crop, lauding Wasatch Community Gardens for its partnership in creating community gardens on city-owned land, providing spaces for neighbors who otherwise wouldn't be able to grow their own food.

"We have a lot of food deserts in our city. This is one way to make sure people have access to fresh produce," Biskupski said. "This builds stronger communities by creating space where people work together, help each other learn how to garden, and supply healthy, home-grown, organic foods for their families."

Of the 44 families with plots at Liberty Wells, four are resettled refugees from Sudan and Bhutan, said Cecilia Hackerson, International Rescue Committee coordinator for a New Roots program meant to help refugee families start new lives in Salt Lake County.

"A lot of the families we serve come from really strong agricultural backgrounds," Hackerson said. "Gardens, no matter where you're from, are a place of respite and a place to deepen partnerships with the community. … They offer a space for families to grow fresh, culturally familiar produce while getting to know other community members. It's a nice exchange."

The 44 families — who obtained plots on the garden by applying with Salt Lake City — can grow any produce they choose on their plot. Extra produce is left in a community bucket outside of the garden's fence for any neighbor or community member to pick up.

There's also a "U Pick It" zone, where all community members can freely harvest produce as it ripens.

The Liberty Wells garden, which broke ground in April, is one of five community gardens in Salt Lake City, where neighbors care for and share the produce. Others are located in Rose Park, Glendale, The Avenues and near Broadway downtown.

At least 200 families have plots between the five gardens, said Bridget Stuckly, program manager for Salt Lake City's sustainability department. Community gardens, she said, can "reconnect" families with healthy food, especially those who may struggle to afford it.

"Being able to grow your own food is a great, affordable way to have food security and provide for your family," Stuckly said.

Salt Lake City's Green City Growers program is considering several new parcels for potential garden sites. Residents can apply for a garden plot at slcgreen.com.

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