The first-ever Southside Community Gardens (SCG) First Friday potluck, held at the Maze Garden on June 4th as part of the First Friday festivities on Southside Bethlehem, was an important step for our project. Group members, volunteers, and friends worked hard to put on an inviting event in order to make the public aware of the work we are doing at community gardens on the Southside.

Though rain threatened to fall during the first hour, our spirits weren’t dampened, and when the storm clouds passed, a pleasant summer evening settled above the bustling activity occurring just beyond the southern banks of the Lehigh River. Soon a diverse turnout of folks—SCG group members working at our Maze and Ullman gardens, Lehigh students, faculty, and staff, Southside business owners and community members, graduates of the inaugural class of the Bethlehem Citizen’s Academy, and area residents active in the sustainability movement—made their way into the Maze Garden to see all the work we’ve done there since early May, while enjoying good food, music, and conversation with friends, both old and new. Not only did a friendly environment of growing community pervade the evening, but we also met a few new volunteers.

Along with the eclectic mix of homemade food prepared by attendees, anyone who stopped by the park had the option of taking home a free tomato plant, courtesy of SUN*LV and SCG. This proved to be a superb idea, as we provided a seemingly endless array of pleasantly surprised pedestrians, many of whom were out to enjoy the First Friday atmosphere on a cool June night, with a free, beautiful tomato plant while simultaneously drawing them into the garden to learn more about our project. Thanks to Judy Zimmerman, who together with her husband and two charming daughters worked all night to hand out plants and tell people about the SCG project. Julie Vitale and Matt and Molly Sanderson also spent large portions of the evening distributing plants and sharing information about SCG with passersby who happened by the Maze.

Thanks, also, to thank DJ Arm 18 (Andrew McIntosh), an adjunct professor at Lehigh who teaches a summer course on the history of Hip Hop. Andrew did a fantastic job providing musical entertainment throughout the evening, with assistance from Maria Zimmerman, one of Judy’s young daughters. Lou Cinquinio of SUN*LV, who provided the tomato plants, continues to be a great supporter and friend of our project; we are lucky to have the the folks at SUN*LV as a resource here in the Lehigh Valley for starting and supporting community gardens, so please take a second to learn about their important work. And, of course, thanks to everyone who volunteered their time and efforts to make the evening go so smoothly—cooking, bringing supplies, promoting the event, answering questions, cleaning up until late in the evening—as well as all those who stopped by during the night to see the Maze and learn more about SCG.

We’ll be hosting another First Friday potluck next month, on July 2nd, and we hope to see you there. While details are still in the works, we hope to have DJs affiliated with the Hip Hop Caucus and the Green the Block coalition join DJ Arm 18 on the turntables. Also, the gardeners working at the Maze have discussed the possibility of showing a documentary or other related movie in the park at some point this summer. We will be working out the specifics and feasibility of these upcoming summer events in the weeks and months ahead; please check back here regularly to learn more. We hope to see you next month!

Bethlehem-area artist Cheryl Dougan, who was “peripherally involved in [the Maze Garden] from the very beginning,” recently contacted us with information about the garden’s history.  Here is the powerful story she shared with us:

“It was conceived and developed by [Lehigh] Prof. Anthony Viscardi, working with his architecture students, and Diane LaBelle, director of the Archi-Kids program. The project was envisioned as a way for Lehigh students to mentor young kids with architecture interests, while also connecting Lehigh to the community. Diane and Tony put a tremendous amount of work into the project, not only as teachers, but as contractors coordinating the building of the gardens, physically laying the paving stones, building the fountain, running electrical wires for the central lamp post and digging, digging, digging. So many people in the surrounding community stopped by to pick up shovels and help; some brought by food and cold drinks for the volunteers working on the park, others reached into their pockets to donate money to the cause. The development of the park has an amazing story that shouldn’t be forgotten. There is a video tape of the first dedication ceremony, development drawings, etc., if anyone is keeping an archive of the true history of this community park. For the record, back in the ’70s Tony also spearheaded the development of a community park in Atlanta; the park is located on 10th and Peachtree Street, now in the heart of thriving mid-town. Back then the neighborhood was a dilapidated eye sore and home to prostitutes and drug dealers. It is a testament to the power of community parks that they transform communities. It is amazing how they become sacred ground as communities grow and change around them.”

Thanks, Cheryl, for helping us better understand the garden’s history and the original purpose for its creation, as well as its relationship to other community gardens and its importance as a community-building space.

Don’t forget our First Friday potluck dinner, which will take place this Friday, June 4th, from 6 – 9 p.m. Please bring a dish or non-alcoholic beverage to share. Music will be provided by DJ Arm 18. Also, we will be handing out free tomato plants, while supplies last, courtesy of SUN*LV and Southside Community Gardens, to anyone who stops by during the evening’s festivities—so please come by to eat and listen to music on a warm summer evening; share good conversation with members of the Southside community; see all the work we’ve done at this wonderful garden with such a fascinating history; and get free tomato plants. Scroll down to previous posts to find out more information.

We hope to see you there!

Please join us on First Friday, June 4th, from 6 – 9 p.m., as we welcome summer to the Southside with a night of food, music, and friendly conversation at the Maze Garden, located on Bethlehem’s Southside at the intersection of 3rd and New Streets. With the cold weather finally behind us, let’s get together on what we hope will be a warm, early summer evening and see the wonderful progress we’ve made at the Maze, which looks beautiful after all the hard work the gardeners did last week. To mark the occasion, the Southside Community Gardens project will be hosting a potluck dinner, with music provided by local performing artist DJ Arm 18. Please bring a dish to share, or a non-alcoholic beverage. We hope to have similar events at the Maze on First Fridays throughout the summer; please come out and help us make the first one a great success, as we try to make the Maze Garden a central gathering space for Southside Community Gardens events and activities throughout the summer and fall. Here is a flier with more details.

I also want to share a story that connects many of the ideas and possibilities discussed here for building a thriving local food community in the Lehigh Valley. In previous posts, I have mentioned the farm-to-table movement, as well as efforts to revitalize local agriculture in Appalachia; here is a story, from a wonderful blog called Farm to Table, about a city deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville, N.C., with an active, successful farm-to-table community and a number of prosperous family-owned farms. The story focuses on the work of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), and it touches on several of the diverse components many group members envision as part of our project—bringing local food into schools, incorporating food literacy into the curriculum, and making fresh food available at food banks or through other welfare programs. The article also brings to mind the important work of and resources provided by the Greater Lehigh Valley chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local, and suggests ways we could work with them. Take a second to read the story, and to explore the Farm to Table site.

Power in Community: How a Local Food Movement Changed a City

Finally, there is a work day scheduled for the Maze Garden this Sunday, May 30, beginning around 1 p.m. We will be building on the great start we got last week, and welcome anyone who wants to spend some of their Sunday afternoon working in the garden. There is plenty of work to do, so please stop by.

We can always be reached at <southsidecommunitygardens@gmail.com>.

SCG members Jessica Stuart and Judy Zimmerman planting the Maze Garden for the summer

On Saturday, May 22nd, the Southside Community Gardens (SCG) project held a plant sale and work day at the Maze Garden, a beautiful community garden located at the intersection of 3rd and New Streets on Bethlehem’s Southside. The day proved to be a far-reaching success, with a great turnout, as an energetic and diverse group of people from throughout our growing community came together to work hard to sell organic vegetable plants, pull weeds, turn the soil, and plant vegetables and herbs that should bring an abundance of fresh, locally grown produce to the Southside during the coming summer months. Included among those who volunteered their time and sweat in order to make the day such a satisfying experience were SCG group members, Southside residents, members of the Lehigh campus community—faculty, staff, and students—people involved with important Southside businesses and institutions, leading figures in the local sustainability and community gardening movements, and many passionate gardeners, including several people who have gardened at the Maze in the past and who provided invaluable information about the garden’s seemingly endless bounty of plants, flowers, herbs, berries, vegetables, and much more.

The organic plants sold at the morning’s sale, a varied selection of peppers and tomatoes, were kindly donated by the Turnip Truck. The purpose of the sale was to raise money for and awareness about our project; we were quite pleased with the number of people who came by the Maze Garden to purchase plants and learn more about our work on the Southside. Thanks to Lehigh graduate student Jessica Stuart for taking the lead in promoting the day’s activities.

Matt Sanderson helping Walker Hulvat mix compost and soil

Throughout the morning, SCG group members who had signed up for a plot at the Maze, together with other SCG gardeners and volunteers, got down to the hard work of finally planting the beds—pulling weeds, turning the soil and mixing in rich, dark mushroom compost, and planting various pepper and tomato plants, dill, chives, green beans, and more. Many of these plants were kindly donated by Lou Cinquino and our good friends at SUN*LV, and, since it was such a sizable donation, we were able to share plants with people working our other gardens—Ullman Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, and the Lehigh community garden. After several hours of work, friendly conversation, and cooperation, the Maze Garden was planted for the summer, with space remaining in two of the beds so the gardeners can add a few new vegetables in the coming weeks. While many people contributed to the day’s success, special thanks are in order for Gisela Corrales, Peter Crownfield, the Hasz family, the entire Hulvat family, Dan Hunter, Professor Matt Sanderson of Lehigh, Jessica Stuart, and Judy Zimmerman.

The Maze Garden is planted!

Most of all, thanks to everyone who stopped by to buy a plant or ask a question, who volunteered some of their time and energy, who contributed in any way, big or small, as Saturday was an important (and enjoyable!) day for the SCG project. We owe the day’s feeling of reward and success to the community of people who have come together to improve the availability of fresh, locally grown food on Bethlehem’s Southside.

One of the frequent topics of conversation throughout Saturday’s work day involved the lack of fresh produce at food banks and the ability of excess food from community gardens to address this area of need. Here is a story that is particularly relevant in light of those discussions, about a New Jersey farmer who has been donating vegetables from his garden to food pantries.

Using Nature’s Bounty to Feed the Hungry

Don’t forget about another upcoming SCG event: on June 4th, as part of the First Friday activities on the Southside, we will be having a pot luck dinner at the Maze Garden, with music provided by local musician DJ Arm 18, from 6 – 9 p.m. Plans are in the works to have a cooking demonstration and food donation, with a focus on the benefits of cooking with food you have grown, at the garden as part of the First Friday festivities. Please check back here regularly for details. Finally, we hope to announce a work day soon for the community garden at Roberto Clemente Park; recent developments have us feeling optimistic that we will be installing raised beds in early June.

We hope to see you soon!

Below is a link to a recent article from the New York Times about a new trend in sustainable agriculture and community gardening: company gardens located at the headquarters of major corporations. Many large corporations, from PepsiCo and Kohl’s to Google and Best Buy, view recently installed company gardens as a new benefit for workers amidst an economic climate that has forced employers to cut back on traditional perks. Corporate gardens also have the potential to lift morale, offer a break from the monotony of the work day, encourage team-building skills, and provide fresh, healthy food for workers and local food banks.

Reaping Benefits in the Corporate Garden

And the Southside Community Gardens (SCG) project is in the process of planning several upcoming events at the Maze Garden as spring gardening shifts into high gear. First, on Saturday, May 22, we will be holding a plant sale, from 9 a.m to Noon.  Details are still in the works, but the Turnip Truck, an Organic Kitchen Garden Service located in Bucks County, has offered to donate a good selection of organic plants to our project; we will be offering these plants for sale on the

The Turnip Truck

morning of May 22. A Master gardener will also be on hand to answer planting and gardening questions. Additionally, the folks signed up to garden at the Maze are planning a work day for that morning, when they hope to be ready to plant herbs and vegetables in the beds there. Then, on Friday, June 4, we will be holding another First Friday potluck at the Maze Garden, from 6 – 9 p.m. , with music likely provided by local DJ Arm 18. Please come out and join us for these events at the Maze Garden, located on the Southside at the intersection of New and Third Streets.  Check back here for more information throughout the next few weeks.

In the meantime, if you are interested in signing up to garden a plot at one of the SCG sites, or if you would just like to learn more about our project, please contact us at southsidecommunitygardens@gmail.com.

We hope to see you soon!

Hi All,

With spring in full swing, it’s certainly time for an update on the Southside Community Gardens (SCG) project, an outgrowth of Lehigh’s South Side Initiative (SSI).

Remember that you can keep up with and contribute to community gardens developments here. We welcome your comments, thoughts, suggestions, ideas, and more.

I’d also like to call a general SCG meeting to take stock of where we are: what garden sites are still to be developed, what are the needs for up-and-running gardens, and what should we be thinking about for spring-summer 2011 and beyond. That meeting will be next Wednesday, May 12th, at 7:00 p.m., on the first floor of Maginnes Hall, Lehigh University. And from now on, we’ll have regular SCG meetings on the second Wednesday of each month.

Two Saturdays ago, a number of people came together and built a garden at Ullman Park! There are presently eight 4′ x 10′ raised beds at Ullman, filled with soil mix, and a good group of neighborhood residents and Lehigh students who are starting to plant. Ida Womer is the Ullman Garden leader; a security fence and water source are in the works.  A huge thank you to SUN*LV,  led by Lou Cinquino, for the bed materials and planning.  SUN*LV’s Steve Weiss was great in leading the construction. Special thanks to Scott Meyer and Blaine Waide for working through the day. And Ralph Carp and the City’s Parks Dept. have been crucial of course in providing the garden site along with soil and other materials.

Lehigh has given its approval for a community garden on its Goodman campus, located on the south side of South Mountain. Lehigh students, faculty, and staff are currently signing up for plots. Planting will begin in late May. In addition to personal use, produce from the Lehigh Community Garden will go to Southside food banks, will be sold at farmers markets, and may be distributed to the university’s food services.

After a good potluck dinner at Roberto Clemente Park, SCG continues to sign up Lynfield residents for a community garden at the bottom of the park. If you’re interested at this effort, you can sign up on the SCG website, or contact me, John Pettegrew, at 610-390-8970.

Finally, this Friday evening, the First Friday of May, SCG people will be gathering at the Maze Garden on 3rd Street between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. A potluck dinner and music are being planned. For more information about the Maze Garden (if you are interested in working in that garden this year), contact Chris Addy, <cwa210@lehigh.edu>.

Happy Spring,
John

Breena Holland, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh, and a member of the university’s Environmental Initiative, asked us to share this link to PolicyLink’s home page, which includes information about community gardening and related issues. PolicyLink is a national research and action institute committed to advancing economic and social equity. The institute strives to contribute to the creation of sustainable communities of opportunity, where everyone participates and prospers. If successful, these communities offer access to quality jobs, affordable housing, good schools, transportation, and the benefits of healthy food and physical activity. Guided by the belief that those closest to the nation’s challenges are central to finding solutions, PolicyLink relies on the wisdom, voice, and experience of local residents and organizations. They have coined the phrase “Lifting Up What Works” as a way to focus attention on how people are successfully using local, state, and federal policy to create conditions that benefit everyone, especially those in low-income communities and communities of color. PolicyLink is guided by the firm belief that equity – just, fair, and green inclusion – must be the basis of all policy decisions. Take a few minutes to check out the information available at their web page, as their work is instructive for the issues we are trying to address on Bethlehem’s Southside, as well as in the nation as a whole. Thanks, Breena, for sharing!