Sustainable Living-Community Gardens

by Shawn Dell Joyce

The economic downturn has left many communities looking decimated with empty lots, vacant stores, and unemployed people with too much time and too little money. Some of these people have started a positive trend across the country by taking over vacant lots, empty rooftops, and unused parks to create community gardens.  These community gardens are a great way to get both children and adults involved in beautifying the neighborhood and benefitting the community with better nutrition and green spaces.

In the Wallkill Valley, we have a few community gardens that you can be part of. The Town of Montgomery Community Garden was started by Walden Resident Richard Phelps in an effort to help preserve Montgomery’s Benedict Park. The park is located on Rte 17K one mile west of the village. The garden is in the front field on the left in two acres of high ground. The community garden is divided into 56 single plots most 20 ft x 20ft and available to be gardened singly, double, triple or in quadruple combination for $25 per plot, plus two hours of community service.

The community garden has been a community effort with donated fence posts, donated well from Tompkins Well Drilling, and a communal compost pile. The garden is open to the public, so visitors to the park can drop in and see flowers in bloom and tomatoes swelling on the vines.

In the hamlet of Wallkill, Local businessman and lifelong resident, Stewart Crowell won a grant to develop his own land into a community garden. He enlisted support from the Wallkill Public Library, the Town of Shawangunk Council, the Wallkill High School Honor Society, the Wallkill Reformed Church Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, the Wallkill Farm Market, as well as the local community enhancement committee, Woman’s Club and Girl and Boy Scouts. Plans are underway for this effort which will compliment Crowell’s Wallkill Community Farm Market which he began last summer. 

The Wallkill Library will lend a hand by creating an “ABC’s and Edibles” children’s reading garden, teaching children about plants and veggies and incorporating the planting of seeds and plants into story time programs.  Local high school students are joining the project to lend a hand in building beds and laying mulch and harvesting and distributing the produce. By encouraging young people to participate in the process, Wallkill is fostering an appreciation of farming, and working in harmony with nature. By making it a hamlet-wide effort, residents feel a sense of pride in making our community look its best.

Why not take part in one of these community gardens now, while it is still early enough in the growing season.  For more information on the Wallkill Community Garden, please call Mr. Crowell at 341-7381, for a plot in the Town of Montgomery Community Garden,contact Richard Phelps  (845)778-2736

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.


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