Harvesting Success at the Community Garden; Program Looks to Expand After First-year’s Successes

August 31, 2012
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Revere’s Bob Fitzgerald never knew a cucumber could taste so good.

Revere’s Bob Fitzgerald tends to his garden at the new community garden on East Mountain Avenue on the grounds of Revere High. Fitzgerald said it’s his first attempt at gardening, and it has been the highlight of his summer.

But after recently harvesting his first cucumbers in the inaugural season of the Community Garden on the Revere High School grounds, Fitzgerald sat down under a tree and bit down into sweet success.

“This has made my summer,” he said recently while cleaning up his tomato plants in the garden. “I’m loving it and it gets me out of the house. I work part-time so I have the time. I was talking to my nutritionist and we talked about healthy ways to eat. This came up in our conversation so I decided to get involved. For me, it serves several purposes. It gets me out, it helps me to meet new people, it gets me some exercise and I get to eat healthy foods that I grow.”

Fitzgerald, a former City employee, said this was his first try at gardening. He said it has been more fun than he thought, and his highlight was harvesting his first vegetable – a cucumber.

“I ate a cucumber right off the vine,” he said. “They’re funny because you look and look and never see anything. Then one day, there they are. I sat down right here, took a break and ate it.”

The Community Garden started this past spring when RHS donated space along East Mountain Avenue for a modest effort. The few plots that were built – sponsored by the RevereCARES Mass In Motion Food and Fitness grant – got distributed with a lottery drawing. After that, the garden appointed a leadership team and started sewing seeds. The program was just sort of a Pilot program to see how the idea would take in Revere. While gardening in backyards and side lots has been the stuff of legend here for decades, establishing a community garden was an entirely new idea.

Superintendent Paul Dakin said he has watched the garden blossom and the neighbors take to it all summer. He said he has become a huge advocate of the program’s expansion, perhaps on school properties.

“The Community Garden is a great way for the schools to open their assets to residents,” he said. “I’ve visited with the community garden plot holders and this initiative has brought people together with a common purpose who did not know each other before becoming involved in the project. After visiting with them I asked to be on the waiting list if a lot were to open up.”

Sylvia Chiang of RevereCARES said they are very happy to see that the garden has found success and that people are coming together for exercise and healthy eating – as well as camaraderie.

“We know that everybody is very happy with the outcome, the results and especially the vegetables,” said Chiang. “For us, it’s designed with the goal of healthy eating and healthy living. We also love the idea of bringing neighbors together and getting them to know each other and talk about other things in life.”

Chiang said they do have their eye upon expanding the community garden idea, but they are simply offering residents the opportunity and some small grant monies to groups who want to do the organizing. They’re not getting involved in picking locations and staring efforts.

“We do run into the problem that Revere has very little green space available, but people are creative and if they want one, they’ll find out how to make it work,” she said. “We really hope we can create more community gardens across the city that will have equal success.”

For Fitzgerald, he is already looking forward to a better harvest of zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes next year.

“I can’t wait until next year because I’ve learned a lot of things,” he said. “I think this was just a great idea somebody had.”

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