[Community_garden] Boynton Beach, FL: Community gardens need more Green Thumbs.

adam36055 at aol.com adam36055 at aol.com
Wed Oct 11 20:29:23 EST 2006


 Discussion: What should come first - the neighborhood residents who want a garden, or a garden given to that community saying, " if we build it, they will come to run it?" 
 
Best wishes, 
 
Adam Honigman
Hell's Kitchen, NYC
Community gardens need more green thumbs
By Julie Waresh
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
BOYNTON BEACH — What if you threw a party and hardly anybody came?
That's what happened at the Boynton Beach Community Gardens kickoff late last month to mark the start of the growing season.
 
 
Billed as a garden party, the Saturday morning gathering drew just a handful of people to the city's two community gardens on Seacrest Boulevard.
 
"We could use some funding and more gardeners," said Sister Lorraine Ryan, who runs the Women's Circle and coordinates the gardening program.
What began in 2000 as a cooperative effort between the city, the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service and Ryan is now pretty much a one-woman operation.
In the early years, the gardens received start-up and maintenance grants of thousands of dollars from both a federal program and a local foundation.
Today, however, Ryan buys the seeds and other supplies herself with a small amount of money from her Women's Circle budget.
"It's like $100 to $200 at the bottom of my budget," said Ryan, whose organization focuses on literacy and employment for low-income women.
While support has waned in recent years, there are the faithful few who show up each season.
Among them is Elizabeth Jenkins, who has raised collard greens and tomatoes for several years.
"Everywhere I've lived, I've planted something," said Jenkins, who grew up on a farm in Putnam County.
Jenkins reserved one of the 15 plots at the Triangle Garden, on Seacrest between northwest 5th and 6th avenues.
Fellow gardener Sylvania Fredericks, who Ryan says is the garden's self-appointed caretaker, is growing black-eyed peas, lima beans and collards.
"It's just something I like to do," he said. "It gives me peace of mind."
A few blocks north, two women prepared their plots at the 15-bed MLK Garden, at Seacrest and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards.
Back for her second season, Maculeuse Saintaime is planting carrots, beans, okra, corn and cabbage this year.
"I like gardens," said Saintaime, who added that raising vegetables reminds her of home. "When I was in Haiti, I had a garden."
Ryan, meanwhile, took orders for seeds, soil and other supplies. "I'll go out and buy it and bring it back," she told the gardeners.
The city pays the water bills and maintains the gardens' perimeters, but there is no money budgeted for the gardens themselves.
Similarly, the county extension's 4-H division, which through 2004 had a staff member promoting community gardening throughout the county, no longer has the resources to help with time or supplies.
Regenia Scott, the city's neighborhood services manager, said she's willing to help Ryan assemble a team to guide the project and seek donations of gardening supplies from local retailers.
But, Scott said, "It's going to have to be a project that the community commits to."
Nationwide, there are an estimated 20,000 community gardens, according to the Columbus, Ohio-based American Community Gardening Association.
The movement aims not only to clean up neglected areas, but also to encourage residents to work together to grow food and improve their communities.
It can be a challenge, however, to keep community gardens going long-term, said Betsy Johnson, executive director of the association.
"The easiest part is putting plants in the ground," she said. "The hardest part is building up an entity that is really sustainable after that initial flurry of interest."
Many successful gardens have connections to organized community groups or social service agencies, Johnson said.
To that end, Ryan said she hopes to involve neighborhood schools, including Galaxy and Forest Park elementaries, in the effort.
Galaxy Principal Guarn Sims said he likes the idea.
"I would love to get some of my students involved in that kind of project - learning about agriculture and at the same time serving the community," he said.
Ryan, meanwhile, is working on her own plot at the MLK Garden, where she'll grow carrots, tomatoes and green beans in the season that runs through May.
"As soon as it gets hot," she said, "not only the plants, but the gardeners give up too."
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