On Saturday, June 9, 2018, the Roosevelt Community Garden was officially opened to the public. Under bright sunny skies, 20+ garden members and volunteers gathered to kick-start the opening of the garden and the 2018 growing season. With the help of long-time farmers Heather Forest and Larry Foglia, garden members learned how to plant their beds to achieve maximum yield. Heather and Larry also shared tried and true techniques for planting vegetables. Gardeners were then provided with a variety of seeds and beautiful seedlings including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, collards, okra (and more) to start planting their beds.
Overall, the garden contains 43 plots – six children’s beds, three wheelchair-accessible beds and 34 regular raised beds. Community plots are also available to engage senior citizens, students and individuals who would like to grow to give back to local food pantries. Plots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. After opening day, only three beds remain unsubscribed.
To ensure the sustainability of the Garden, we are partnering with local organizations to host a series of educational workshops throughout the year. Experienced gardeners from Cornell Cooperative Extension, Brooklyn Queens Land Trust and the local community have enthusiastically volunteered their expertise. Topics will include: starting your vegetable garden, growing on a budget, square-foot gardening, organic gardening, composting and more. Additionally, the Roosevelt Public Library is making plans to host children’s reading programs on site and Catherine Beasley, a teacher from the Roosevelt School District, will use one of the beds to teach her students about growing their own food.
Community gardens have the potential to empower communities by helping to educate residents about how to grow their own food and eat more healthily. They create connections among residents and local civic organizations. They also present local job opportunities and teach community members specific skill sets such as carpentry and agriculture. When they are successful and abundant, they provide community members with the opportunity to give back by donating food to residents in need and to local food pantries. Equally important, they limit future residential development and promote sustainable gardening practices that will help protect the natural environment and our groundwater.
About the Roosevelt Community Garden Project
Nassau County approached the Land Alliance in 2016 about establishing community gardens on vacant County-owned lots. Land trusts across the country, with their experience in land use, agriculture and community organizing, have been successful partners in ventures such as these. We embraced the idea and began to write grant applications to bring this project to fruition. Thankfully, the Long Island Community Foundation and the Land Trust Alliance/New York State Conservation Partnership Program responded and have funded the first two years of the project.
The Roosevelt Community Garden is located on a former 10,000-square foot house lot adjacent to a county park, three churches, two schools and the local library. We have been working with the County and members of the community to shape the plan for the garden.
Over the winter, Nassau County cleared the site and installed new fencing. With the site prepared, we turned to experts Dylan Licopoli of Home Organic Gardening Service and Larry Foglia of Fox Hollow Farm to design and build the raised beds. On April 20th members of the community and corporate volunteers from MSC Industrial Supply Co. built 34 raised beds in record time. Soon volunteers returned to build children’s beds and wheelchair accessible beds and to weed the garden plots. A pergola gathering area will be built in the center of the garden, featuring benches and picnic tables. This area will serve as the hub of the garden, a place for the community to gather and share food and for children to play. Two sheds will be installed for storage purposes. If this garden is successful, it is our hope that other such gardens will grow on other vacant lands owned by the County.
We are very pleased to partner with Nassau County to create a community garden in Roosevelt. Special thanks to Land Alliance staff members Andrea Millwood and Amanda Furcall and volunteers Jill DeGroff and Ken Krumanacker for their extraordinary efforts to make this garden a success. We must also add a “shout out” to Stephen Searl, whose clear vision was key to the early planning efforts.