It’s a simple and quiet thing yet also something profound. At schools throughout New Bedford, GROW Education is entering its third year of planting community gardens for the benefit of students and the neighborhoods around them. GROW Education is a project of the Marion Institute and it is spearheaded in New Bedford by two great Groundwork! members – Adam Davenport and Zoe Hansen-DiBello.
On Tuesday night, May 23, I joined them and area residents at a community planting event at Carlos Pacheco Elementary School on Mt. Pleasant Street. We got our hands dirty planting tomatoes, kale, lettuce, hot peppers, beans and more in the raised beds on the south side of the school.
At Carlos Pacheco Elementary School
Carlos Pacheco sits upon a majestic spot on Mt. Pleasant Street and affords commanding views of the city down Sawyer Street to the harbor. It was a beautiful late spring evening and everyone was having lots of fun.
Adam had prepared the beds and plants for planting – but still, had left enough to do to allow the adults and children present to learn a bit about proper gardening. We were instructed to tickle roots when appropriate and when to handle them gingerly. (The tomatoes are hardy; the hot peppers less so.)
Adam and Zoe (with Rowan in tow) had just come from a larger planting event at Hayden-Mcfadden Elementary School. In total, there are 12 community school gardens in the GROW Education network. They work with the schools and surrounding residents and encourage all concerned to “take ownership” of the garden beds – which means yes, it’s okay to go and pick some kale and tomatoes!
To help everyone know exactly what’s planted and when it’s best to harvest, impressive new bulletin boards have been installed at the gardens with all sorts of relevant information posted – including a schedule of when Adam will be at each through the summer in case anyone has some questions or suggestions. (Kudos to YouthBuild New Bedford for their construction prowess.)
The benefits of these great gardens are many. They instill a sense of community at and around an underutilized public resource – our schools. Additionally, children – and adults! – learn something by the act of planting and harvesting. And, as one mom put it Tuesday night, her kids aren’t hot for veggies – but she’s hoping they’ll learn to love ‘em if they’ve had a hand in producing fresh produce on their doorstep.
Finally, as I wrote above, the gardens are just fun to work and play in! They brought out the kid in everyone Tuesday night as we dug up dirt and navigated around worms to plant our bounty. The real kids in the group wandered over to the playground and basketball hoops after the labor was complete and Carlos Pacheco was alive with community.
Not a bad evening’s work.
- The GROW Education gardens (as well as the school playgrounds) could always use some resources. If any area businesses or entrepreneurs would like to help out and perhaps sponsor a space or some equipment and supplies, contact Zoe at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow GROW Education gardens and events from their Facebook page here.
- ABOUT GROW Education: GROW Education is an innovative community gardening initiative that works with local schools to cultivate healthy bonds in urban neighborhoods. The GROW Education gardens provide hands-on learning during the school day, and a hub for cultivating community education and action throughout the year. Find out more here.