This group of backyard farmers is one of ten finalists in our One-Block Party contest. The winner will be announced on October 2, 2011, at Sunset's Savor the Central coast event.


 Olympia, WA


Team Gray Sky Growers, all bundled up. Left to right, more or less: The Stoll, Wilhelm (leaderJoellen in the red jacket), Wilson, Watts, and Suhrbier families.(Not pictured: the Salzberg-Rogers family.) Photo by Beth Wilson.Gray Sky Growers' leader, Joellen Wilhem, loves many things about her neighborhood: how close it is to downtown and parks, its general walkability, the bustling farmer’s market, a pub with local brews, and boutique coffee roasters. And the neighbors themselves are great, she says. “[They] redefine the word “neighborly”—they help us grow good food, nurture our growing families, and create a better community every day (in 2010 a group of them worked to establish a school garden a block away). We already grow and eat together often.  All six families have small to medium plots of annual and perennial crops. Two families tend to their flocks of city chickens and two gentlemen are avid brewers (they even grow hops for their brews).”

What’s more, in cool, rainy Olympia, Team GSG can grow standard “cool-weather crops” all summer long. So they’re planning a fascinating mix of things like kale, kohlrabi, and strawberries right along with the cucumbers and beans. Some perennial crops grace this garden, too, like raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, and four kinds of cherries. They're hoping for tea bushes, kiwi, and amaranth, in addition to the hops (which, as you may know, can grow 30 feet high). Wow.

Plus, they're embarking on all kinds of food adventures: brewing stout and pilsner, fishing for salmon, digging clams, making cheese—and experimenting with gluten-free baking (a challenge under any circumstances, so this should be interesting). The menu is long, lovely, and has a fun sense of place. Cascadian Zucchini Canoes? Cedar-Planked Salmon? Bring it on.

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