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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