As a recent New York transplant, I have been wanting to resurrect my green thumb for some time, but I find myself slightly overwhelmed by the difficulty of finding a community garden with open plots. I’ve heard stories of people waiting for more than five years for a plot to open–with wait times like that, it would probably be easier to get a kidney.
Using the most recent database I could find, my husband and I located some gardens in our neighborhood and the surrounding areas. We set out to scout, filled with hope and excitement. The first garden was right down our block. It’s called the RING (The Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Garden) and while it’s a wonderful community effort, we discovered it was strictly a flower garden, so we had to move on. Much to our disappointment, garden after garden was either boarded up or abandoned. Six gardens in all were closed or had vanished.
I could only assume that my research had been poor, but after digging a little deeper I discovered that many of New York’s community gardens are at risk of either encroaching commercial development or simple neglect due to a lack of community support.
We came home defeated, stopping for a quart of strawberries to lift our spirits. Washing away the dirt from our fruit, I began to question my idea of finding a plot. Sure, it would be great to find an already established and flourishing garden where I could plant tomatoes and kale to share with family and friends, but how many people would benefit from that? Could I possibly do more? I thought of the boarded-up gardens again and their depressed neighborhoods.
Perhaps there is still a need for a resurrection, and I decided to redirect my research. I’m not exactly sure how to go about organizing a community garden, but I am open to education from anyone with experience. In the meantime, we have joined a local community-activist group and bought a small tomato plant for our windowsill.
Leah Brickley, Recipe Tester