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Food Bank To Benefit From Museum's Garden

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Food Bank To Benefit From Museum's Garden


Food Bank To Benefit From Museum's Garden

Food Bank To Benefit From Museum's Garden

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In Tulsa, Okla., the Philbrook Museum of Art is doing something different with outdoor space that it can't afford to maintain as a formal garden this year. Workers have planted vegetables that will be harvested and donated to the local community food bank. Melinda McMillan is the museum's garden director, and she talks with Renee Montagne about the program.


It's tough economic times for arts organizations around the country, including a museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Philbrook Museum of Art is known for its formal gardens - 28 acres of them. This year, though, the budget didn't include flowers for the south garden. And faced with a summer of empty beds, garden manager Melinda McMillan had an idea, and she's on the phone with us now to talk about that. Good morning.

Ms. MELINDA McMILLAN (Garden Manager, Philbrook Museum of Art): Good morning. How are you?

MONTAGNE: So, what are you doing with all that dirt there?

Ms. McMILLAN: Well, with all of our empty garden space, we didn't want it to remain empty for the rest of the growing season. And so we decided to collaborate with the community food bank of eastern Oklahoma and grow this garden space into a vegetable garden.

MONTAGNE: So, I gather you're outside, in the heat…

Ms. McMILLAN: I am.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: …of Tulsa.

Ms. McMILLAN: I am outside in the heat amongst the cucumbers and okra as I speak.

MONTAGNE: What all have you planted?

Ms. McMILLAN: We've planted a great variety of material. Everything from fruit - from cantaloupe, watermelon - to cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers red and green okra, sweet corn, different types of green beans, squash, zucchini, eggplant, Brussels sprout, lettuce.

MONTAGNE: That sounds fantastic. So, were all the seeds donated?

Ms. McMILLAN: They were, yes. That was one of the conditions that I wanted to present to the community as support of this project was to have all of the seeds, the tomato cages, poles, fertilizer, mulch, that type of material all donated for the project.

MONTAGNE: So, how many people are you going to need to harvest all of this over what period of time?

Ms. McMILLAN: We will begin our harvest on Wednesday, July 1. Our volunteers will harvest anything from the beans and the okra that are ready to go, and also scoping out the vegetables that are ready for the next day's harvest. And then about four to six people each harvest day will be in attendance.

MONTAGNE: And take the food to the food bank?

Ms. McMILLAN: Food bank, yes, exactly. And then the food bank takes it in and they distribute it out to all of the people in the communities that they serve.

MONTAGNE: You know, before we let you go, I'd like to ask you a little bit about the Philbrook Museum. What does the garden that you're now standing in amongst, as you say, you know, cucumbers and…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: …then, you know, okra and whatnot, what has that garden, has it traditionally looked like, because these were formal gardens.

Ms. McMILLAN: That's right. The property was built in 1928 by Wade and Genevieve Philips. The formal gardens are very much Italian renaissance in style and architecture with a lot of English and French influence; a lot of perennials and annuals, beautiful, majestic native trees. It's a massive beautiful property, but it's all tucked away, right-centered in the city of Tulsa.

MONTAGNE: And Wade Philips was a rather wealthy oilman, right?

Ms. McMILLAN: Yes, he was. He was an oilman, businessman, philanthropist. He was just a really incredible person.

MONTAGNE: Do you think he'd be pleased to know that some of the flowers are gone and the people will be fed?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. McMILLAN: I think that he would be amazed and I think proud. He was constantly a very generous man. And so I think that he would view this project, the vegetable garden project, as a continuation of this legacy of helping fellow Oklahomans during economic downturns in their own times of need.

MONTAGNE: Talking with us from the middle of the new vegetable garden at the Philbrook Museum of Art is garden manager Melinda McMillan. Thanks very much.

Ms. MCMILLAN: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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