Every Garden Has to Have a Tree: A Local Community Garden

By Louise Polli

The mas­sive lin­den tree on Fre­mont Street over­looks a com­mu­ni­ty gar­den, state­ly, but not so impos­ing as to dis­cour­age neigh­bors from sit­ting at the pic­nic table beneath its boughs. Nor do the hay bales fram­ing the garden’s fenced perime­ter, bar­ri­ers to crit­ters look­ing for an easy meal, but not to the gar­den­ers who can relax after tend­ing the tidy beds to reflect on their work or com­pare notes with fel­low gardeners.

It’s a wel­com­ing place, a green oasis on a city street in down­town Gloversville, where peo­ple can share the ben­e­fits of a com­mu­nal space that pro­vides food, con­ver­sa­tion, and food for thought on what is pos­si­ble. Through the vision, know-how, and per­sis­tence of a core group led by Gloversville native and Deputy May­or Vin­cent DeSan­tis, a new vol­un­teer at Lan­dis Arbore­tum, this sev­en-year young endeav­or has, well, blos­somed. Born of city-pro­vid­ed com­post over lawn, sand­wiched between pri­mar­i­ly own­er-occu­pied homes, the gar­den is host­ed by the Gloversville Hous­ing and Neigh­bor­hood Improve­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (GHNC), the non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that main­tains it. GHNC also seeks grants to beau­ti­fy and empow­er neigh­bor­hoods, sup­ports the plant­i­ng of trees in urban areas, and land banks”, to care for local prop­er­ties that have not sold and are in dan­ger of falling into disrepair.

Thir­teen plots are cur­rent­ly being used by local fam­i­lies or orga­ni­za­tions. Vince spends count­less hours at Fre­mont, ensur­ing the site is mulched, pulling an errant weed, advis­ing and help­ing oth­er gar­den­ers when need­ed. We took some pho­tos the day we met there in late May, when it had some healthy signs of life, ear­ly crops like beans, but was not yet in the prime of the grow­ing sea­son. Vince not­ed the young plants and sprout­ing seeds, the shrubs and peren­ni­als lin­ing the side­walk. All this will be absolute­ly spec­tac­u­lar with col­or. It’s impor­tant to pro­vide beau­ty to every­body so that’s why it’s impor­tant to maintain.”

Not a new phe­nom­e­non, the com­mu­ni­ty gar­den­ing move­ment con­tin­ues to gain sup­port­ers every­where. Ide­al in urban envi­ron­ments with apart­ment dwellers or those with lim­it­ed access to open land, gar­dens are a good match for any­one seek­ing local pro­duce – their own plus that from farm­ers mar­kets. In the Cap­i­tal Dis­trict, you can also find these gar­dens in large­ly sub­ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties like Lath­am and Guilder­land. The Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Gar­den­ing Asso­ci­a­tion paints the big pic­ture, that the gar­dens are pro­vid­ing a cat­a­lyst for neigh­bor­hood and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment, stim­u­lat­ing social inter­ac­tion, encour­ag­ing self-reliance, beau­ti­fy­ing neigh­bor­hoods, pro­duc­ing nutri­tious food, reduc­ing fam­i­ly food bud­gets, con­serv­ing resources and cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for recre­ation, exer­cise, ther­a­py, and education.”

As I was drawn to the dap­pled shade of that impres­sive lin­den, Vince declared, Every gar­den has to have a tree.” And every gar­den should have some­one like Vince DeSan­tis to help it thrive.

So what’s up next for Vince and his Fre­mont Street Gar­den? With a core group of peo­ple that are very inter­est­ed … a won­der­ful board of directors…and a city gov­ern­ment that has been very sup­port­ive,” Vince sees a bright future for the gar­den and for Gloversville. Local youth Jacob Siarkows­ki will be plan­ning and over­see­ing the con­struc­tion of a shed for his Eagle Scout project. Social activ­i­ties envi­sioned onsite could expand the garden’s vis­i­bil­i­ty and gar­ner increased involve­ment by neigh­bor­ing fam­i­lies. Oppor­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate a vibrant and walk­a­ble down­town link­ing homes, apart­ments, local busi­ness­es, and green spaces are grow­ing. Vince is con­fi­dent. What is very impor­tant is revi­tal­iza­tion and improve­ment. It’s all a mat­ter of atti­tude and we just hap­pen to have a lot.” 

But that’s anoth­er article. 

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Summer 2018

Volume 36 , Number 3

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