Two years ago, Dayton High School 2019 graduate Emma Monteith began to look after Dayton’s community garden. It all started when high school Health teacher Abby deSmet created the garden roughly five years ago. Then, after having witnessed Emma’s connection to it, she passed it onto her. 

Emma mentors a young gardener

Soon after Mrs. deSmet left the garden to Emma in the summer of 2018, Emma became totally dedicated. And with equal parts passion and grit, she committed to it daily. Emma loved her garden so much, she shared it with many of her friends and family — young and old. Now, she offers a weekly community garden club on Fridays at 5:30 PM, open to all participants who want to learn about gardening. She is even planning on participating as a part of this year’s Dayton Summer Innovations Academy, to teach students from the school district all about how to cultivate fresh food.

Growing up, gardening was a big part of Emma’s home life and as she grew, she began to understand the value of growing and sharing fresh fruits and vegetables with the world. After she began attending high school at Dayton, she quickly realized that she could be the driving force in her own learning. Emma suddenly had the power to create a positive educational experience for herself and center it around her craft: gardening. “Dayton shows so much enthusiasm toward self-discovery.” She explained. “When I didn’t find a place for myself, I created one.”

This year, the garden is rich with produce. Emma and her team are growing many herbs such as rosemary, sage, cilantro, and more. Some of their regular seasonal produce include tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, and lots of greens. There is also a selection of berries, but they are always looking to expand. They are particularly interested in growing a wider variety of fruits, as well as some shading trees. 

Alongside expanding the garden’s variety of produce, Emma is beginning to expand to livestock as well, as she’s working on introducing chickens to the project. She is asking the community for extra supplies to help support the garden’s new animal friends.

Emma’s sister and friends

Looking to the future, Emma wants to improve the garden’s community outreach and form more partnerships. Working alongside the school district, Emma wants to bring local produce to the school’s lunch menus. And someday, she even wants to be able to take her gardening club on tours to other community gardens such as McMinnville’s — she’s already began collaborating with local gardeners in Dayton.

But her connections don’t end there. While partnering with the school and her own gardening mentors, Emma has also teamed up with students who have utilized resources in the i3 Center through Innovations. Emma says: “I created hanging baskets and pots in ceramics for the garden. I even got a couple of guys from Innovations to build me a wooden sign!” Emma continued to explain the crucial role that Innovations has played in her education, as well as her life. “Without the [Innovations] program, I wouldn’t have gotten this exposure, which has lead to such dramatic personal development.” She explained.

Emma wants the community garden to serve as a multi-generational learning tool. She wants to teach people, young and old, that gardening is both joyful and important. Emma says: “I love people because everyone has a story. A 9-year old child has the same ability to gain exposure and learn, as a full grown adult. That’s why I want this garden to be for the community.”

The powerful force which drives such brilliant, change-making students at Dayton, is rooted at the source of the Innovate mindset. A mindset which encourages students to explore what they’re passionate about and then make things happen. As Innovate Dayton grows, it will continue to engage students like Emma with our industry, to familiarize them with the growing economy and open their eyes to the valuable applications of hands on, agricultural, and technological skills in the workforce. 

For more information about the community garden and how you can get involved, contact Emma Monteith at She is always accepting new volunteers as well as donations.

Bevin Schrag Administrator

Bevin Schrag is a writer for Innovate Oregon. While working in social media and marketing at OnlineNW, she is currently studying the arts at Chemeketa Community College, to later become a media designer.