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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Holladay Man Recognized for Dedication to Community Garden Benefitting Local Refugees

Dec 07, 2015 02:24PM ● By Brian Jones

By Brian Jones

Cottonwood-Holladay - Local residents who drive past the large, rural-looking parcel of land at 4500 South and 2700 East in Holladay surely cannot fail to notice the green oasis floating in a sea of suburban development. Chances are good, though, they don’t know what it is, and even better that they don’t know how it came to be or what purpose it serves. 

That oasis is the Mount Olympus Community Garden, a privately owned and community-run garden that not only serves the public at large, but also provides food for the sizeable community of foreign refugees living in the Holladay area. On Oct. 31, the Rocky Mountain Region of the National Garden Clubs presented Holladay resident Paul Fetzer with an award recognizing his role in organizing the garden and his ongoing involvement with its operation.

The Mount Olympus Community Garden, started with private funds and maintained by the provision of volunteer services, recently completed its fourth summer serving the residents of Holladay. Funded by numerous private donations, none more prominent than Dry Creek Charities, the garden provides several valuable services to the community.

In addition to serving as a consistent source of sustainable food for the local community of refugees always in need of assistance, the garden also holds gardening classes free of charge for the public, provides opportunities for unique learning experience for the local elementary school and offers service opportunities for Boy and Girl Scout organizations. 

For Fetzer, though, what he most enjoys about being part of Mount Olympus is seeing how different members of the community bring their own individual styles and interests to the garden.

“The best part of the garden is seeing the interchange between the refugees’ styles and ideas with the local way of doing things,” he said.

Many of the refugees involved with the garden spent years in refugee camps before ultimately making their way to the Salt Lake Valley.

“Some of these people spent 10 or 15 years in camps, and yet remain ambitious, happy people,” Fetzer said. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have them here.” 

Fetzer also really enjoys the process of involving local school children in the experience of working at the garden. He says about a quarter of the garden’s grow boxes are reserved for the children attending nearby Howard R. Driggs elementary school. The children come to the garden in waves and learn about gardening, while getting some enjoyable hands-on experience. 

“We plant everything from flowers to berries to potatoes, and the kids have a lot of fun with that,” Fetzer said. “They come plant in the spring, I take care of it in the summer, and in the fall the kids come back and take care of the eating.” 

On the face of his award from the National Garden Clubs, Fetzer is designated as a Master Gardener. In addition to utilizing his green thumb, he is the garden’s volunteer coordinator, and with the number of volunteers Mount Olympus sees every summer, that role takes up no small amount of his time. 

Fetzer estimates that the garden received thousands of hours of service this year from several hundred volunteers, and he says there’s always room for more. He hopes the community will become more aware not only of the garden’s presence, but of the services it offers and the vital role it plays for the individuals it serves. 

“When residents learn about the purpose of the garden, they’re so excited to be involved,” Fetzer said. 

Residents wanting more information about volunteer or donation opportunities can reach Paul Fetzer at 801-232-7387 or [email protected]