An Urban Neighborhood Reconnects with its Garden

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August 6, 2011; Source: | Banking on the nutritional promise of an expanded source of fresh produce, a community garden gets public health funding to renovate and aims to unify the surrounding community in the process 

In spite of a financial situation in the U.S. that appears to become more complex by the day, on Saturday a group of Boston residents that included the city’s mayor came together to herald the simple joys that come from fresh flowers, vegetables and fruit. reports that after being established sometime in the 1970s-early 1980s, “at the height of the popularity of urban gardens,” the Nightingale Community Garden, owned by the nonprofit Boston Natural Areas Network , re-opened with an official dedication celebration.  

According to the story, the 1.4 acre garden in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood has been in operation since its founding about 30 years ago but a lack of organization had stifled growth. To finance the expansion, Boston Natural Areas Network secured $475,000 from a range of public and private sources, including: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work program, the Boston Public Health Commission and a number of individual donors. The renovation enabled a sizable increase in space, from 30 gardening plots to 132, and the garden now boasts a “rapidly growing wait list.” 

In addition to the health benefits that come from eating fresh produce which Michelle Obama has been promoting regularly as part of her Let’s Move initiative, Valerie J. Burns, president of Boston Natural Areas Network, also expects that the expanded garden will “create a social space for people in the neighborhood to get to know each other in ways they wouldn’t in other parts of the neighborhood.” Already, after just one month since opening to the public, “gardeners as young as 2-years old, and groups that speak as many as six languages” have come to work, according to volunteer coordinator Elnora Thompson. 

Reflecting on the overall value of the project to Dorchester, Wendy Simard noted, “Honestly, soil heals people. You come out, you’re grounded — you’re literally grounded — your feet are in the soil, [and] you reconnect with something that you’re disconnected from when you live in the city.” —Anne Eigeman