On the heels of a successful inaugural season, Growing Together Garden at 2500 Reed Street kicked off 2016 with back-to-back events the weekend of April 15. The project continues as a partnership between NSC, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Church of the Redeemer Baptist, from which land for the garden has been leased. All three groups were in attendance to help start the year, joined by enthusiastic church members; refugees from Bhutan, Burma and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; a Nepali interpreter; and neighbors from Point Breeze.
On April 15, our first garden meeting was held at the Church of the Redeemer Baptist fellowship hall. Dozens of families signed up for one of 173 4′ x 10′ plots and received an overview of what to expect for 2016. Space is affordable at just $25, including growing space, seeds, water and shared tools. Demand remains high, and by the end of the weekend, a waiting list was already in place. While listening to presentations from NSC and PHS, gardeners shared a meal of minestrone soup with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh apples, donated by Church of the Redeemer. The vegetarian meal was a huge hit, and after the formalities, the gardeners spent the remaining part of the evening sharing their experiences as they looked ahead to 2016.
Growing Together is a communal project in the true sense of the word. In addition to tending their individual plots, gardeners commit to attending at least four meetings per season, as well as providing ten hours of communal work in the garden’s shared space. Not only does this ensure that Growing Together remains a welcoming space for all. It provides an opportunity for people to get to know one another, share experiences and create community. Meetings and workdays will continue monthly through the fall.
First Growing Together Workday of the Year
To say that our gardeners were eager to kick off the year is an understatement. Well before the official start of the April 16 work day, families arrived excited to discover their plot assignments and get to work. In short order, they could be found clearing and preparing their gardens – topping off soil, pulling weeds, planting and covering their spaces with Agri-bond to keep young plants warm. PHS supplied the soil, materials to build new garden plots and seedlings.
Volunteers were also on hand to assist, including a group from the YMCA Y Achievers, who donated pretzels to the hardworking gardeners. Broad Street Ministry was also on site with a group of volunteers from the Union Theological Seminary in Virgina who were interested in learning what NSC does in order to do something similar. Their efforts clearing trash, filling new plots and pulling weeds were central to the day’s accomplishments.
Bringing People Together
Even as new garden neighbors are getting to know one another, a great deal of knowledge-sharing is already taking place. During the garden workday, more than one first-timer could be heard drawing on the insight of more experienced growers nearby. This kind of connection is one of the most inspiring outcomes of Growing Together. As the season continues, we look forward to more community-building among the diverse Philadelphians who call this their garden home.
We welcome the Growing Together community, and look forward to another great season growing together.
–Jenn Hall, NSC Volunteer, Writer