hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

May 23, 2013

Community gardens give neighbors something to share


The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Harrison Street is hardly the kind of place where you’d expect to find a large garden.

It’s a small street nestled into the southern edge of the inner-city Acre neighborhood. The street is behind the Dunkin Donuts on Winter Street, a block away from St. James Church. It’s a tightly packed neighborhood filled with pavement and sidewalks — not exactly a gardening environment.

But a garden does indeed exist on Harrison Street at Charles Street, a community garden at that. It’s a plot of land that neighbors have divided up, each taking a slice and planting vegetables. It’s a little bit of country in the middle of the city — just what residents of that area need.

As its name indicates, the “community’’ garden is a shared property, a place where people not only plant their own vegetables, but also look out for the entire property. They work together to maintain it and, along the way, make new friends.

It is a refreshing and worthwhile activity to be involved with. Its organizers are to be congratulated.

The Harrison Street community garden has worked out so well that its influence is spreading. A new community garden has taken root on River Street. (See story, Page 1.) There, neighbors have begun working a plot of land for planting. The city has chipped in by extending public water lines to the land and providing compost and wood chips.

The city’s Brightside volunteer organization and the Bradford Grange teamed up to create the new community garden, next to Tacos Lupita restaurant. It’s the same piece of land that two teenagers turned into a small park in 2005 as their Girl Scout Gold Award project.

The city’s community gardens are drawing people not just from the inner city, but from rural areas as well. Take Stephen Craft, for instance. He lives in the area of the Kenoza Lake reservoir, and said he enjoys being part of the Harrison Street garden, which he joined last year.

“I met the people of the neighborhood and other gardeners who all had green thumbs,” he told Reporter Mike LaBella.

Craft said his house is surrounded by tall trees. That leaves little sun to grow a crop, so he began planting at the fenced-in Harrison Street plot.

“It has good sun for tomatoes and just enough for peppers, too,” Craft told LaBella. “This year, I hope to have the tallest sunflower.”

He was referring to an annual contest at the Harrison Street garden to see who can grow the tallest sunflower. Community gardens have events like that to generate interest and excitement among members, and a sense of belonging.

We hope the influence of community gardening continues to spread throughout the city.

Its products are all positive — fresh vegetables, an improved neighborhood image and, most importantly, a spirit of cooperation among residents.