Growing Community (and Some Tomatoes, Too)

Published in the Chevy Chaser Magazine on April 8, 2013
By Saraya Brewer

Kenwick Neighborhood community garden inches toward fruition

1385581_10201729942363709_566437455_n

Almost a year after the initial seeds for the idea were planted, a community garden in the Kenwick neighborhood is starting to take root. Spearheaded by the Kenwick Neighbor-hood Association (KNA), with seed money provided by the 5th District office, the new garden will be located in the green space behind Victory Christian Church (facing Owsley Avenue).

According to Kenwick Neighborhood Association board member Sara Constantine, the hope is to have the garden installed before the neighborhood’s semi-annual Bungalow Tour, which is scheduled for June 2.

“I don’t know if we’ll necessarily have early spring plantings, but we’ll be ready for tomatoes,” Constantine said, adding that she has heard from more than 40 volunteers interested in helping bring the garden to fruition.

“The response has been fantastic,” she said. “[The neighborhood association] has put together so many events in the past that require volunteers, and I would say this has been the most effortless outpouring of volunteers.”

Fifth District councilmember Bill Farmer, Jr. approached the KNA last summer with the funding opportunity. He said he identified Kenwick as a good location for a community project like this for a number of reasons, including the potential to engage with the Kenwick community center, which is operated by the Lexington Parks & Rec department, and also the opportunity to engage a variety of neighborhood volunteers from a wide range of economic backgrounds.

“What you get is a whole lot of people with ownership now – it’s a chance to bring the people from the community center more into the community,” Farmer said.

“Kenwick a very neighborly group,” he added. “Now you can thread the neighborhood with the church and the community center, with one fairly vibrant spot.”

Several details of the garden still need to be sorted out at the initial April meeting, but Constantine says the biggest hurdles – securing a space and funding – have already been crossed.

Currently, Constantine said she envisions it will be a primarily edible garden utilizing raised beds, with the harvest split between neighborhood volunteers and residents, and also those in need.

Ryan Koch, the executive director for Seedleaf, a non-profit organization that has built several community gardens around Lexington, recommends focusing on small varieties of vegetables that people recognize, such as greens and cherry or grape tomatoes. Seedleaf operates several “You Pick” gardens that encourage passersby to collect the bounty.

“It’s good garden maintenance to harvest,” Koch said. “It’s better to get the (fruit) off the plant than to have it all over the ground. So even if people just come with their self interest, the garden is blessed because they took the time to harvest a little bit.”

Koch noted that Seedleaf has had a handful of positive partnerships with local churches in the past, and said he hopes this partnership is a “win” for the church, which had initially expressed some misgivings about hosting the garden on their property.

“They wanted to make sure their property was respected and that it would look nice, and since they’re a small congregation, they wanted to make sure we had enough people to manage it,” Constantine explained. “And that’s reasonable, because these things can fall apart.”

Jim Mahoney, the interim pastor for Victory Christian Church, said that providing space for an endeavor that is potentially contributing to people in need of assistance could impart a sense of pride within the congregation.

“If people take advantage of it, this could provide real assistance,” Mahoney said. “That’s what I would personally like to see.”

“The primary goal is to raise a sense of community, and however it gives back to the community is great, but really the idea of working together and bringing everyone together is the foremost goal in my mind,” Constantine said.

“The garden and working together, it helps people bond, to have a common goal, to do service together,” Koch said. “It’s a real privilege to get to host something like that.”

Anyone interested in helping with the Kenwick community garden should contact Constantine by emailing kenwickneighbors@gmail.com.