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Kitchen Gardening

Building Community at the River Street Garden

Community gardens come in all shapes and sizes, and each garden has its own personality.

  • The River Street Community garden in North Adams, Mass., includes two raised beds filled with edible flowers, herbs and vegetables.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Students planted the community garden and folks in the neighborhood tend it.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The North Adams Bread and Baking Community Bake Oven is a wood-fired amentity that should be part of every community garden. 
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

The two raised beds caught my eye while I was on a quick trip to North Adams, Mass., in July. Each bed was filled with bright orange nasturtiums and a beautiful assortment of rooting and fruiting vegetables.

A garden bench, donated by Storey Publishing, provides seating for visitors to admire the garden. The garden’s impressive backdrop is Mass MoCA-the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Also in the greenway is something I hadn’t seen before in a community space-a brick oven for baking bread.

I just had to learn more about this pocket-sized community garden.

I was able to connect by email with Jennifer Munoz, the Growing Healthy Garden Program manager, who coordinates a school and community garden program. Her role is to teach people about food, especially how to grow it and how to prepare it. She collaborates with various partners throughout the community.

“The River Street Community Garden arose out of an interest in combining the ideas behind two service-learning projects that Drury High School students participate in: the Garden Mosaics Project and the Hoosic River Revival,” she wrote.

The Garden Mosaics Project is one in which the students grow food on school grounds to donate to the free community meals program, she explained. The Hoosic River Revival is a grassroots effort to modify the flood chutes along the river to improve the quality of life along the river’s edge.

Anne French, the Drury Service-Learning director, obtained grant money so the garden beds could be designed, constructed and installed by students on city-owned property along the Hoosic River. 

The Hoosic River Revival also secured money through a Hardman grant to help pay for Jennifer to coordinate the program and to add a rain barrel near the River Street garden.

Other collaboration partners include the Northern Berkshire Neighbors Program that helped generate interest in a free gardening program and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts environmental students who grew the seedlings for the garden beds in their campus greenhouse.

Jennifer coordinates all the parts of the project. She leads a weekly garden club to help the neighbors work together to plant, maintain, harvest and share the garden’s fresh organic herbs and vegetables.

At the other end of the greenway is the North Adams Bread and Baking Community oven. This free, public wood-fired hearth is available for use by anyone 21 years and over. The Health Department holds the keys; sourdough starter and Master Baking classes are also available.

Garden fresh produce and wood-fired baked bread? Sounds like the perfect community garden to me.

 

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