The People Behind the Gardens: Meet Kathy Barry

Our slogan here at GROWINGGARDENS is  “planting seeds for good food, healthy people and strong communities… we help people GROW!” Our mission and programs often bring us into contact with amazing people and we have been extremely lucky to work alongside many of the individuals helping our community grow.  One of those people, native-Oregonian Kathy Barry, brings our slogan to life. Growing up in Portland, Kathy remembers harvesting fruit for pies and preserving and eating home-grown tomatoes right off the vine.  As an adult she has enjoyed sharing fresh grown foods with her family and community through her involvement with Growing Gardens.

Kathy with her son and daughter in the Alder Garden

Kathy was first introduced to the organization through her daughter, Kelsey, who participated in Growing Gardens’ Youth Grow After-School Garden Club at Alder Elementary’s Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program.  Kathy and her family then enrolled in our Home Garden Program and two garden beds were installed in their backyard. They quickly added more beds and were very excited about all the fresh vegetables they were growing! Kathy says the garden at home  “enhanced [her] life.”  Seeing how much her daughter enjoyed garden club, Kathy became involved at Alder by volunteering to water the schools’ garden over the summer.  She then began volunteering as an assistant Youth Grow Garden Club Teacher. After Growing Gardens’ three-year partnership ended at Alder, Kathy was hired by the SUN program to teach Garden Club classes on her own. And, in spring 2009, Kathy participated in Growing Gardens Pilot School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training (SGCCT).

Kathy teaching an insect activity at the School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training

Now, Kathy is sharing her love of gardening with over 60 children a season through four after-school SUN Garden Club classes!

At Alder Elementary,  98% of students participate in the free or reduced lunch price program. Many families at Alder face extreme financial challenges and access to affordable healthy food is real community need. Kathy’s Garden Club classes provide Alder students the opportunity to participate in hands-on garden activities and to taste fresh fruits and vegetables. In Alder’s Garden Club, both students and plants grow in the garden.

Kathy’s favorite garden-based activity is the life-cycle of a plant because students seem to grasp the lesson so quickly, particularly when they can watch a bean seed germinate and grow before their eyes.   Kathy is constantly looking to develop and set-up a variety of garden activities to best engage the students.   In addition to her regular Garden Club classes, Kathy recently taught a Service Learning class in the garden, in which students served their community by providing Alder families with seeds, soil, organic fertilizer and donated plants from Growing Gardens. Kathy and the students hoped that these supplies would enable these families to grow some of their own food.  In turn the students felt empowered by the sense of community.  Kathy explains, “[The class] greatly impacted them with the value of helping someone else through their learning and generous help. [And]  to see who they were helping was of great value to them as well.” Check out Kathy’s Service Learning Plan for growing starts for families at Alder.

Kathy is an extremely generous woman, both in terms of her strong commitment to her family and local school, as well as her involvement with Growing Gardens.  We have been grateful for the opportunity to learn from her generous spirit, as well as from her capacity to link her own family, especially her son and daughter, to her work in the community.  Growing Gardens is constantly striving to support connections between students, families, and the broader community, and Kathy Barry has served as a great inspiration for our work.   GROWINGGARDENS thanks Kathy for all of her hard work and dedication to garden-based learning at Alder!  We have enjoyed watching her grow!



  1. “planting seeds for good food, healthy people and strong communities”…
    i really like that idea. back to the old times, when people loved to work at their garden and field to grow good food and at the same time to strengthen the bonds between families, relatives, friends…
    now, sadly, many people feel satisfied by those crap junk foods..
    i love this blog. bookmarked! 🙂

  2. Brooke Tuveson said

    Thanks to Kathy and Growing Gardens for all the amazing opportunities you have provided to kids participating in Metropolitan Family Service’s SUN Community School program at Alder Elementary . . . we are inspired by your work daily, and so thankful for the positive opportunities you’ve helped create for kids and families in our community!!!

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