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A mom-in-law helps a campus grow

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She’s is a painter, an actress in New York and now a gardener at the Rock Creek Community Garden.

Patricia Mason tends to her tomatoes at the Rock Creek Community Garden.

Patricia Mason tends to her tomatoes at the Rock Creek Community Garden.

Patricia Mason strolls across Springville Road to tend to her plot of land in the garden a few times per week. Mason, who is the mother-in-law to Rock Creek Campus President David Rule, grows tomatoes, peas and her family’s personal favorite – hot peppers. Living with the Rules and helping them with her grandchildren, Mason uses the garden to the fullest, not only growing produce for her family, but the campus community.

“It’s something we can do as a project,” said Mason while weeding her plant beds. “I like to get the grandchildren introduced to gardening. They come over and help. They helped me string up these tomato plants.”

She’s a great example of the spirit of the community garden, which is part of Rock Creek’s award-winning Loop Program. Students grow cafeteria food in the community garden, thanks to the vermi-composting of cafeteria food scraps, which eventually become nutrient-rich worm castings that enrich the garden’s soil. This practice creates a closed-loop system – the heart of sustainable practice. Any vegetables left over go to the Oregon Food Bank.

Mason, who won a New York actress-of-the-year award for community theater two years in a row, has done many things in life. She’s toured with many theater shows, possesses an art degree, loves to paint and could still act if she wanted to.

“That was hard work,” she said, as she pruned back her tomato plant. “I was working a full-time job at the time while acting. Lot of trophies and awards for acting in New York; sounds like I’m boasting, but I’m into a lot of things.”

IMG_1593And gardening isn’t anything new for her. In her younger days, she lived in Hyde Park, New York, near the Theodore and Eleanor Roosevelt Estate. She jogged and gardened in the estate’s community garden.

“Here you are, a simple citizen and having access to such historical sites at no cost,” said Mason, clipping a few pea pods.

She migrated from their home in Michigan when Rule was named campus president a year ago. She saw the campus’s sprawling garden and started a plot last spring.

To her, Oregon and Rock Creek suits her just fine.

“I love the green here,” she said. “I love the idea of flowers growing all year round.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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