Food gardens to take root in city parks

Santa Fe New Mexican

Food gardens to take root in city parks

Organizers look for volunteers to help projects grow

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/PrintStory/Food-gardens-to-take-root-in-city-parks

Photo by: New Mexican file photo

Are you interested in growing vegetables, but lack a good place to do it?

Community gardens are expected to sprout soon in three Santa Fe public parks, and organizers are looking for participants who want to get their hands into the good earth.

At the city’s new Railyard Park, a group of volunteers is getting ready to launch the community garden that will be partly watered via the Acequia Madre. Meanwhile, city officials are reviewing policies that will allow residents to use community garden spaces set aside at Frenchy’s Field and Maclovia parks.

“We are really excited that there is going to be a place for food production in the new Railyard Park. I think it really demonstrates Santa Fe’s commitment to sustainability,” said Libby Reinish, who recently helped found a nonprofit called Santa Fe Community Gardens.

Her idea is to create a network system by which community gardeners can share information and resources. Although so far the group is only helping with the Railyard Park spaces, she hopes to expand that mission later.

About 18 plots are available at the Railyard garden for a $40 fee that helps defray the cost of water and some fencing materials. Nearby, there will also be a demonstration waffle garden designed and maintained by Santa Fe Master Gardeners, Alvord Elementary School and other volunteers.

City Parks Division Director Fabian Chavez said his staff is ready to start collecting names of people who want to spearhead the other garden projects, forming groups that will comply with pending new city regulations. Several city committees have already agreed to the rules, and they are set to appear on the City Council agenda for a final vote later this month.

The prospect is not slated to be a city-driven one, however. Each garden needs a core group of volunteers who will build consensus and be self-governing, said Chavez. The group will also receive an annual water bill from the city.

“For this first year, Parks is not getting involved in this,” he said. “We want these individual garden communities to make those decisions based on their needs, which may change over time.”

Dozens of potential participants have formed a loose group to kick off the Frenchy’s Field garden, which has about 5,800 square feet. There is no leader so far for the much smaller gardens at Maclovia Park, Chavez said. A group of residents who helped plan recent park renovations has not expressed much interest in organizing a garden group this summer at the park west of Cerrillos Road.

Although these three spaces represent the first Santa Fe city parks to welcome community gardeners, the concept is not new. A privately owned community garden off Rodeo Road has been in operation for more than 10 years and this year is full for the first time in recent memory, said organizer Lauren Longworth.

Longworth said she’s glad to hear that the city spaces are ready for action because she has had to turn away many inquiries this year.

“I get a lot of calls, and I would like to be able to send people to the garden that is closest to where they live,” she said. “I always dreamed when we started this community garden that some day there would be a network of community gardens. I never thought it would actually happen.”

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or jgrimm@sfnewmexican.com.

GET INVOLVED

Frenchy’s Field Community Garden. City Parks Division staff and volunteers with Friends of Frenchy’s will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Frenchy’s Barn to talk about the garden. For more information, contact Jessie Esparza at 955-2106.

Santa Fe Railyard. Residents can apply for a plot in the Railyard Acequia Garden until May 22. A $40 membership fee is collected for each 50-square-foot plot. A work day is planned from 9 to 11:30 a.m. May 16. Information is available at santafecommunitygardens.org or 982-6975.

Maclovia Park has spaces for a community garden, but so far no area residents are taking on the project. To get started, contact Jessie Esparza at the Parks Division, 955-2106.

Milagro Community Garden is located on land owned by Lutheran Church of the Servant off Rodeo Road. The garden’s 30 plots are already filled for this year, but a waiting list is forming. For information, e-mail milagro_garden@att.net.

THE WORD ON COMMUNITY GARDENS

Excerpts from a pending city resolution about the benefits of community gardens:

“A garden tended by a community’s residents brings out the best in that community, becoming a source of physical activity, recreation and civic pride for all who participate.”

“Community gardens tend to foster relationships among residents creating strong neighborhoods.”

“Fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables are a nutritious and healthful addition to residents’ diets and surplus produce harvested from community gardens can be a welcome boon for food pantries and soup kitchens.”

“With public interest and awareness of green living at an all-time high, there’s never been a better time for partnerships among public parks and community gardening advocates.”

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