With the growing season drawing to a close, the Southside Community Gardens (SCG) project has scheduled end-of-the-season work parties at two of our community gardens in Southside Bethlehem. On Saturday, October 2, from 9-11 a.m., there will be a work party at Ullman Park, which is located at the intersection of Sassafras Street and 378 as 378 begins the climb up South Mountain toward Center Valley. Then, on Sunday, October 3, from 2-4 p.m., there will be a work party at the Maze Garden, which is located at the intersection of 3rd and New Streets on Bethlehem’s Southside. These work parties will be an opportunity to straighten the gardens and to put them to rest for the season. Tidying the gardens now will also be a great way to begin preparing the beds for next year, while enabling group members, gardeners, and interested volunteers to come together and begin planning for the spring of 2011.

It is no surprise that our first year included a mixture of successes and failures. Coming together to mark the close of the season will serve as a way to share our experiences, learn from what we did wrong as well as what we did right, and discuss what we can do better in the future. With the beds in place and certain problems addressed, we want to be sure and build on SCG’s first year, ensuring that these gardens are a part of the fabric of the Southside community for years to come. Working together to straighten the gardens should be a very productive and energizing way to close the season.

Volunteers are welcome and eagerly invited, as we hope to begin the process of building interest and momentum for 2011. Feel free to stop by at any point during either work day to join us in working to establish a network of community gardens in Southside Bethlehem. These work parties will be a great opportunity to learn more about our project and become involved as we start thinking about next year. If you have tools or extra work gloves, please bring them, as we will surely find a good use for them.

To learn more, ask questions, or get directions, contact us at <southsidecommunitygardens@gmail.com>.

Since these work days fall on the same weekend as October’s First Friday, we will not be able to put the same time and energy into organizing our monthly potluck at the Maze Garden. DJ Arm 18, however, has kindly offered to take charge of this month’s activities; he will again be spinning records in the garden, beginning at approximately 6 p.m. on Friday, October 1. If you are out and enjoying the First Friday festivities on the Southside on what will hopefully be a beautiful autumn evening, we hope you have time to stop by the Maze Garden. And don’t hesitate if you would like to bring a dish or beverage to share; even though the SCG project won’t be able to organize a formal potluck, nothing would speak more clearly to our growing presence on the Southside this year than if the community came together to share food, listen to music, and visit in a more informal, spontaneous, and, dare I say, organic way.

We hope to see you soon!

A sense of the passing of seasons has lingered over Bethlehem’s Southside in recent days. Cool evenings are a reminder that autumn’s changing spectrum of colors is near; Lehigh students are returning to the Southside to start another semester; and life’s regular rhythms are falling back into step as summer vacations become yesterday’s memories. After taking a month off due to our busy August schedules, the Southside Community Gardens (SCG) project is excited to announce that we will be hosting another First Friday potluck dinner at the Maze Garden, located at the intersection of 3rd and New Streets in Southside Bethlehem, on September 3rd from 6 – 9 p.m. Music will again be provided by DJ Arm 18.

September’s First Friday also marks a special occasion: Mayor John Callahan of Bethlehem will be in attendance to dedicate a bench donated to the Maze Garden by the Bethlehem Citizens’ Academy Alumni. So come out and see all the hard work the gardeners have put into the Maze Garden throughout the summer; talk to SCG gardeners from all of our gardens, including the Maze, to find out about what we’ve grown, what we’ve learned, and what we’ve cooked with our own locally grown produce during our first year; learn how to become involved with the SCG project; and get your Labor Day weekend off to a refreshing start by enjoying good food and live music with old friends and new acquaintances as we continue to bring our growing network of community gardeners and interested Bethlehem-area residents together for outdoor activities on late summer and early fall evenings at this inviting community garden on the Southside. If possible, please bring a dish or a non-alcoholic beverage to share.

We hope to see you there!

As often happens once the long days of summer set in, time has flown by, and the start of July is already upon us. After the wonderful community-based event we had in early June, the Southside Community Gardens (SCG) project is excited to announce that we will be hosting another First Friday potluck dinner at the Maze Garden, located at the intersection of 3rd and New Streets in Southside Bethlehem, on July 2nd from 6 – 9 p.m. Music will again be provided by DJ Arm 18, who we hope will be joined on the turntables by other DJs from the Southside community. Come out and see how the Maze Garden is progressing now that summer has officially begun; learn how to become involved with the SCG project; and get your 4th of July weekend off to a great start by enjoying good food, live music, and engaging conversations with friends, old and new, as we continue to bring our growing network of community gardeners and interested Bethlehem-area residents together for outdoor activities on warm summer evenings at this inviting community garden on the Southside. If possible, please bring a dish or a non-alcoholic beverage to share. Here is a flier with more details.

We hope to see you there!

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!