Jul 11, 2017
Employee Spotlight— Eca-Etabo Wasongolo
Eca-Etabo Wasongolo bends down and picks an amaranth plant that is growing in a Village Gardens’ plot on Sauvie Island. Three families grow the vegetable, along with many other African vegetables, as part of the Village Gardens’ Market Gardener Program.
Designed to support families in launching a small farm business, the Market Gardener Program provides donated land, free water, vegetable starts, tilling support and business training. Wasongolo has been the community organizer at Village Gardens for seven years and, more recently, working with the Market Gardener families to help them launch their small businesses. “Village Gardens helps each family business define their goals and work with them on each step, beginning with planning their garden, preparing the garden beds, harvesting and taking the produce to market,” says Wasongolo.
Market Gardeners sell at the New Columbia and St. Johns Farmers Markets and Village Market. As the vegetables get ready for harvest, Wasongolo shows gardeners how to trim, weigh, bundle and price the vegetables for sale at the Farmers Market. The families in the Market Gardener program are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. They grow hard-to-find vegetables from their native countries in Africa, such as fresh amaranth, mbonga bujungu or “MB veggie”— as well as African eggplants, kale, peas, cabbage, beans, squash and tomatoes.
Wasongolo, along with other Village Gardens staff, is a critical link in helping each gardener and their families learn the skills necessary to run a successful small farm business. His role as a Community Organizer for Village Gardens is to work alongside Community Leaders who live in Cathedral Gardens, New Columbia and Tamaracks Apartment affordable housing communities to support leadership in community-led food projects. In addition to the Market Gardener Program on Sauvie Island, Wasongolo also collaborates with residents on the Seeds of Harmony Community Garden and Fruits of Diversity orchard in New Columbia and the New Beginnings Garden in Cathedral Gardens