Community Garden Overcomes Challenges

Post date: Sep 11, 2009 12:34:02 PM

Grateful for support, gardeners look ahead

From: Press Republican September 11th, 2009


Contributing Writer

PLATTSBURGH — The success of the inaugural year of Plattsburgh Community Garden cannot be measured in crop yields alone.

"This is a community of gardeners coming together," Community Garden director Doug Butdorf said of the 400-by-130-foot site at Melissa L. Penfield Park.

The Community Garden, which was approved by the City Common Council and Zoning Board in late April, united city residents who paid $25 for access to one of 32 100-square-foot plots on which they could plant any combination of flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs.

"We had some people who had been at it for a lifetime, and some people were new to it," Butdorf said.

"Some realized after a few weeks that gardening is a lot of work. Others dove in with both feet and worked hard. But everyone definitely learned a lot."


The hardships of gardening this summer, including the late-blight-disease outbreak and the wet early season, brought people together in the Community Garden in ways that Butdorf did not anticipate.

"The garden itself was presented with agricultural problems, and then we had to figure out how to deal with them as a community."

Pulling all of the tomato plants in the wake of the late-blight outbreak had a deep impact on some of the community gardeners, and a few never returned. However, by engaging in conversation and working together as a community, the gardeners were able to resolve the problems they encountered.

The presence of garden pests, including the Japanese beetle and the rare leek moth, also significantly damaged some crops.

"Mildew, pestilence — you name it, we fought against it this year in the garden," Butdorf said.


However, the garden experienced almost no vandalism and no theft, which had been a concern for gardeners, who point to steadfast positive reinforcement from community members.

The gardeners are hopeful that 2010 will be a better growing year.

"This year, we had a great community and solid support, so we didn't need great yields," Butdorf said. "Next year, we will have great crop yields and the support."


Tammy Daniels grew up with a garden but has lived in a Plattsburgh apartment for the past 15 years.

"I was so excited when I found out about this opportunity. It's been a lot of fun to see this because everyone does things differently. So I've learned a lot. I found out what works better and what does not."

Daniels is impressed with the array of produce she was able to grow in her plot. Lettuce, beets, basil, summer squash, peas, lima beans, carrots and cilantro are among the produce she will harvest.

"I love interacting with people who pass by. Everyone is so into the garden. It's great to get out of the house, and it's productive."


Plans for expansion are also in the works.

"We want to grow so that anyone who wants to have a plot can have one," Butdorf said.

Fifteen of the current gardeners have already secured their plots for next year, and it is anticipated that more will return.

Garden directors are looking for a way to add more spaces for next year and possibly a second garden on the south side of the city.

"We may or may not make those moves," Butdorf said. "I think we need one good growing year to get people excited."


Despite challenges this season, the members of the Community Garden were able to make significant donations to the Interfaith Food Shelf, including green beans, potatoes and broccoli, as well as a mixed vegetable salad for the Interfaith Community Meal, feeding more than 75 needy individuals.


The garden received support from local businesses in the form of labor and infrastructure donations. Butdorf and his fellow gardeners hope to minimize the need for assistance in future years through fundraising and grant money.

"And we will not put any burden on the taxpayers," he emphasized.

The community gardeners are also in talks with the State Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist in the installment of raised garden beds in various locations.

"We are trying to use what we've learned to help others," Butdorf said. "The more people who are gardening, the happier we are, even if they are not doing it in our garden."