Community Garden yields food, friendship and generosity

Residents are taking notice of something special happening just across the street from Joyce Hanks Community Center on Lake Road. While it’s hard to miss the vegetable plants and flowers that are flourishing, the thing Sheffield Lake Community Garden yields the most is generosity.

Gardeners with plots at the site spend portions of their week tenderly caring for almost every imaginable vegetable, herb and even some flowers. For the curious who have stopped to watch them toil or learn more about the garden, they often leave with freshly harvested vegetables, a gift from a gardener with whom they chatted.

The Community Garden is being piloted this year after residents requested the city establish it during public meetings last spring to discuss programming at Hanks Community Center.

Research was conducted to see how other cities run their community gardens. It led to the development of a fact sheet and agreement between the city and residents who wanted to try their hand at one of the 24 raised bed plots. The city provided the plots, soil, water and fencing for the entire area.

Dinah Hunt has gardened for years and grows vegetables in her backyard. She thought the Community Garden was “a cool idea” and has enjoyed meeting new people. “I’m excited to be part of this; it makes me happy,” she said. Hunt appreciates the compliments she and other gardeners received from residents who just stop by. She willingly shares her harvest with them, including swiss chard, cucumbers, green beans and zucchini. “That’s what’s most important to me: sharing.” In the fall, Hunt will plant garlic and winter onions and is chatting with other gardeners about other crops that can grow underground during the winter.

Alicia Marzio’s plots are nearby. She’s planted tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers, green beans, bush beans, zucchini, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and herbs.

She’s excited the city has a community garden. “I noticed in other communities how the garden brings community together. That’s happening here. I’ve met some really great people and our paths would not have crossed otherwise.” She also said the gardeners have shared their garden secrets with each other, which in her experience, isn’t something people normally do.

Tania Corbo loves nature. As for the reason she decided to get a plot at the Community Garden, Corbo said, “I really like to get my hands dirty. I find gardening very relaxing; it centers and grounds me.” Like the others, she also thought it would be a good opportunity to meet people and do something for the community, too. “You gotta give back and share with the community,” she said, echoing the comments of other gardeners.

While they also communicate by email when not at the garden, they hope to be able to meet all the other gardeners soon, although that might be a fete given their work, family , travel and volunteer commitments. Meanwhile, they’ll water and weed and marvel at how an unused piece of land in late May has be come an oasis filled with fresh produce, friendship and a generous serving of kindness.