How A Garden is Helping the Community Grow, One Plant at a Time
By Julia Desmarais
It’s a warm summer day, and you’re strolling through town. You pass Starbucks, popping in for a quick Frappuccino to keep the heat away. You continue on your walk, crossing the street, passing Susan Lawrence, and sipping your drink. It is a gorgeous and lazy day–you have nowhere to be, so you are letting your feet lead the way. Across the street you see the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and then something else catches your eye–right next to the Ambulance Corps (on its land, in fact) is a fenced-in area buzzing with busy men, women, and children. Curiosity gets the better of you, and you cross the road–beautiful flowers, rich green lettuce, and lovely little herbs fill your vision; the smells of fresh water, dirt, and plants fill your nose. Plant beds made of wood or surrounded by stones are lined up throughout the space, each with small paths cut through for walking, kneeling and growing; nets are hung up for cultivating beans, and there are signs staked in to give the plots a “homey” feel.
Everyone is busy. Some are bringing piles of plant matter over to compost bins, some are digging out the pathways, some are weeding, and everyone is helping in some way. You are at the Chappaqua Community (emphasis on “community”) Garden on one of their work days–when everyone who has a plot stops by to help out with general garden maintenance for an hour or two. Started by Suzi Novak and InterGenerate in the Spring of 2011 when she noticed that some Ambulance Corps workers were growing tomatoes in the space, this garden has been a wonderful addition to the Chappaqua community.
Now in its third year, the garden is home to 22 beds, all of which are filled with various plants. There are relatively few rules that govern each plot, as everyone builds theirs differently and grows different things. There is one very important rule: everything must be organic. In addition to these beds, there are four special beds known as the “Giving Garden.” Everyone who has a plot in the Community Garden volunteers time here, and the food gets donated to people in need.
While organically grown vegetables are good for everyone, they are especially important for growing kids. If you want your kids to eat healthfully, get them out to the garden. It’s organic, it’s fresh and delicious, and it’s something that they’ll want to eat. As Dr. Susan Rubin, co-chair of the Chappaqua Community Garden, health professional, food and garden educator, environmental activist and local mother said, “When kids grow food, they eat food.” The great thing about this garden is they can grow the food. There are gardeners here of every skill level, and others who are always willing and ready to help.
The community feeling at the garden is a special one and is truthfully the real draw for gardening experts and novices alike; advice sharing, potluck dinners, and seed swaps at Local are only some of the many activities to participate in. Cameron Kelly, a long-time gardener, gardens at home but also has a plot at the Chappaqua Community Garden. She loves the opportunity the town garden gives her to meet neighbors, learn from them, and be a part of the community that has been created there. “The most important message,” she shared, “is that everyone can do this.” Yes, gardening is a skill, but it is a skill that anyone can learn, green thumb or not. Susan’s advice coincides with this–start small, she suggests, and grow herbs. They are very easy to grow, and great to have!
The Ambulance Corps and Chappaqua Paint and Hardware understand the value of the Chappaqua Community Garden, and both have been very generous with their help. The Ambulance Corps has given land and a water supply, while Chappaqua Paint and Hardware has supplied hoses and put in a shed to hold the gardening tools. It has really become a huge, welcoming community affair in which the whole town is involved.
Rubin is very happy with how far the garden has come, and she hopes that in the future it will expand as more residents discover the benefits and excitement of the garden. Her dream is to move it onto the Chappaqua Crossing property someday, where it can be bigger and better. With enough support, there is no doubt that this would be a successful endeavor and an extraordinary benefit to the Chappaqua community, as seen in what the garden has achieved already.
If you would like to get involved with this amazing venture, you can contact Susan Rubin through her website, www.drsusanrubin.com, or Suzi Novak through her email, email@example.com.
Julia Desmarais is a senior at Horace Greeley High School. Growing up, she loved the Junie B. Jones books.