By Teri Carnicelli
In 2005, a North Central family purchased a property at 2nd Street and Glendale Avenue that had an old home and a duplex on it. They planned to build a spec home on it to improve the neighborhood, and to make a profit. But then the real estate market hit its big dip, and the land sat vacant.
The owners got into a discussion with a friend who suggested they allow the neighborhood to use the plot of land for a community garden. That idea took root, and in November 2009 the Growing Together … A Giving Garden was born.
“Our original mission was to provide healthy food to local charities but it has evolved in to creating a place where our community can come together to share their time, talent and treasure to help others,” explains Ronda Cronin, one of the garden’s original founders. “It has become a place for kids to come to learn about gardening, healthy foods and giving back to others.”
Boy Scouts have volunteered, as have high school and primary school groups, church groups, corporate volunteer teams, and more. And over the years, the garden has grown. And grown.
“We started with three small vegetable beds and through the efforts of the community expanded to grow food on just about every inch of the 15,000-square-foot lot,” Cronin says.
But now the real estate market has picked up again, and the owners are ready to try for that spec home. It’s neither a surprise nor a shock to the garden’s executive board members, who knew that day would come eventually.
“They have been very supportive of the garden and have been gracious in allowing us to invite the community to volunteer on Saturday mornings to grow it into what it is today,” Cronin points out. “As the real estate market continues to improve the opportunity for the property owners to sell the land or develop it is becoming a reality. They have graciously given us one more growing season before we have to move the garden to a new location.”
But there is quite a bit to move. A ramada. A tool shed. Several raised beds of produce. A composting area. It’s a daunting task, but the garden’s board and the steady stream of volunteers wouldn’t dream of just letting the garden go.
“We deliver fresh produce to several charities that serve those in need including Living Streams food pantry, The Lighthouse and the Dream Center,” Cronin says. Additionally, anyone in need of food is welcome to visit the garden and harvest what they need.
“We have delivered over 15,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need,” Cronin adds. And with close to 250 regular volunteers, “we never anticipated the community to support us in such an amazing way.”
And now the garden founders are seeking the community’s help once more, this time in locating a new place to plant roots and call home by spring 2016. Needed is at site at least 10,000-square-feet in size with a dedicated water source. The executive board hopes to have several options to consider before making a final decision.
“It is important that we keep the garden going as it serves so many facets of our community including feeding the hungry, teaching children the love of gardening and developing friendships with people whose paths may have never crossed if not for the garden,” Cronin says.
The founders are grateful to the family that allowed the garden to grow and flourish for so many years, at a lease price of just $1 a year. But now it’s time for both to move on.