So there we were Friday night, just a few of us members of the Sagebrush Community Garden, watering the plants that fill our plots. We work hard each summer to harvest our own locally grown vegetables and fruits. The bounty includes corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and a number of other tasty items.

Most of us at the community garden have had items stolen before. There are no padlocks on the fence gates that surround the garden. We’re always sad to see missing cucumbers, or worse, smashed pumpkins and watermelons on the sidewalk. We all work very hard, and to see such waste and disrespect is heartbreaking.

It was even more disappointing, though, to see a middle-aged couple enter the garden and peruse their way through the plots, picking others’ produce.

When the pair was asked if they have a space at the garden, the woman replied, “It’s a community garden.” Hmm. That’s not how this works.

While an argument ensued, curse words were hurled by the woman and law enforcement was called (don’t ask; it’s a long story that I promise doesn’t just involve me), I’m going to use this opportunity to set the record straight.

The community gardens that exist throughout the city of Sheridan are not meant for just anyone to just stop by and pick what they want. As stated above, those of us who utilize the space work hard for what we grow. We also pay to use the space. The $40 fee gives us access to the land and the water supply. 

Many of us share our bounties with our fellow gardeners, but we don’t just help ourselves to the goods in the other garden plots. Had we been asked, those of us at the garden Friday likely would have gladly provided any hungry soul with some of the fruits of our labors. But to see such disregard — and later rudeness — for the hard work of so many frustrated us.

We know each other, if not by name then by face. We water each other’s plots when one goes on vacation. As I noted in a previous column, we even handle rodent issues for our fellow gardeners. That is what makes the space and the people who utilize it a community.

There is a spot in the city where anyone can help themselves to the produce found on site. It’s called the Sheridan Food Forest. Located on the south side of Thorne-Rider Park, the Food Forest is designed to mimic a woodland ecosystem in structure. However, fruiting trees and bushes, perennial vegetables and herbs are substituted as the usual plantings. The Sheridan Food Forest got its start in 2016 and is open to the public with the produce the food forest provides made available for harvest.

I’m not sure what all grows in the Sheridan Food Forest, but its purpose is to help those looking for fresh produce.

As I noted above, those of us who participate in the community gardens around the community are happy to help those in need. Ask anybody and I’m sure there is zucchini to spare (along with any number of other vegetables). But we ask that those who aren’t a part of that gardening community respect the hard work we put into our harvests. Please ask before you take.