Gratitude and Hope
Back in early November of 2010 when I announced I would run for the position of President of the Executive Board of the Fenway Garden Society, I included in my goals something called a “Teaching Garden.” (I first wrote about it on my personal blog as far back as August, as I contemplated a board position and started thinking seriously about how to promote community within the gardens.)
When I joined the board in December, as President, it was a major goal for me, and has remained a project near and dear to my heart, and one that I continue to believe brings us back to our roots as a Victory Garden and closer to our mission as a Community Garden.
There were several challenges right off the bat, first among them: finding the space for it. It had to be large enough to accommodate groups, close to a main path but preferably in the interior of the garden rather than on the perimeter – encouraging visitors to come into the gardens was part of the point of the project. Luckily, four contiguous gardens had opened up in Row Z right across from the Accessible Garden. It was the perfect spot.
A committee was formed headed by VP of the Park Mario D’Amato, with members Karen Wepsic, Erica Bernstein and Wendell Booth. The committee refined the goals for the Teaching Garden, explored potential partnerships (among which are the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy Green Team), brainstormed programming ideas and came up with a seed calendar.
Meanwhile Mario drew up architectural plans for the space and we began working on a grant proposal.
While the grant was in the works, a hardy group of FGS volunteers prepped the plot, and more volunteers cleared the plot at our first Community Participation Day in the Spring.
In seeking funding for the first phase of the project we felt confident that the Mission Hill/Fenway Neighborhood Trust would be excellent partners, with their long-term support for our mission and their commitment to the Fenway community which the teaching garden would serve. I drafted a grant and the committee offered valuable feedback.
In June we received $4000.00 from MHFNT for Phase One of the Teaching Garden.
We also received $250 for seeds through FGS Member Fred Karp and his generous colleagues at State Street.
Once the funds for Phase One were secured, our incredibly supportive Executive Board worked with Mario to organize delivery of lumber, tools, and soil for the construction of the beds. I worked with our good friends at the ENC – special thanks to Julia Golomb and Ray Oladapo-Johnson — to organize three intensive workdays with the Green Team, who KICKED BUTT.
It was very gratifying to work with this great bunch of kids on-site clearing and leveling the plot and then building and filling the beds. THANK YOU ALL!
We also were very fortunate to have Neal Drew and the Community Based Extended Year Program from Brookline High for a half-day moving compost into the Teaching Garden. GREAT JOB!
Back-end support was provided by numerous members: Wendell Booth helped prep and move compost into the plot, Suzanne Comtois re-seeded the area left bare from the compost dump, and Richard Dunshee has been watering the new beds during our little heat wave. Neighbors have been supportive and pitched in as well.
It has been enormously gratifying to see how many people have brought their time, energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to this extraordinary community project. Thanks to all who have joined in!
But this is only the beginning. Going forward we will be working on fencing and gates, benches and toolboxes. And most importantly, we are looking to develop a full calendar of programming, from hands-on weekend and evening seminars on anything and everything garden-related to summer-long adopt-a-bed gardening projects for the community.
2012 programming for this space is a top priority, and we hope in the very near future to provide FGS members and the wider community a platform to discuss the types of programming they would like to see here.
Phase One has been an amazing community effort. I feel lucky and enormously grateful to be part of such a vibrant and engaged community!
We are planning a “soft opening” for the space, so keep an eye out for dates and times. Come join us, and let’s grow together!
Posted by Mike Mennonno.