December 29, 2008, Kingston Daily Freeman: Growing Green

Growing green

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Monday, December 29, 2008 3:06 AM EST
link to complete article is here:

KINGSTON — Color has faded from the countryside as winter has arrived, but the Kingston Land Trust’s Garden Collective is envisioning a greener Kingston nonetheless.

Garden Collective Director Rebecca Martin hopes city residents and community organizations spur individual gardens to spring up around the city in the model of World War-era “victory gardens” as the effort gains momentum.

During both world wars, the federal government encouraged individual citizens to grow some of their own food as part of an effort to conserve the country’s resources.

A contemporary wartime garden initiative would meaningfully connect with the nation’s history, said Martin, and she believes it would help the younger generation connect with older Kingstonians, who “are not often thought of” but have much to offer.

As a newly formed land trust, Kingston Land Trust Chairman Steve Noble noted the nonprofit also “doesn’t have hundreds of acres of land available,” so “the best place to start is with unused land at home” — that is, small parcels of individual homeowners’ land.

Noble said the land trust’s role would be to work with those homeowners as an educator to help set up the gardens.

Martin, who also heads the city’s Ward 9 Community Group, noted community gardens have been a popular way to preserve open space in urban settings like New York City, and, given the rising price of food, they can help people eat healthier and more affordably — or they can just help people eat, as some people may choose to donate food to area nonprofits like the Queen’s Galley.

Though the garden collective is relatively new and is still in the process of forming a committee to organize interested residents, Martin said the collective assisted in planting a garden at the Armadillo Bar & Grill on Abeel street.

“It’s gratifying to turn a sterile piece of land into something and give back to the community,” Noble said of the experience.

Next year, Martin hopes to help a couple who are restoring a house at Cedar and Sterling streets to plant a garden there, and the collective is also working with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the George Washington Elementary School to plant a garden at the school.

Ulster County Cornell Cooperative Extension educator Kristen Wilson said the school’s garden would fit into an after-school 4-H activity during which students would learn to plant and maintain the garden on Wednesdays.

Principal Valerie Hannum said the school would reach out to parents after the holidays.

Marylou Giuliano will supervise the program until April 2, she said. In the meantime, the cooperative extension is looking for community members who would be interested in receiving 4-H leadership training and taking over after that.

Meanwhile, Mayor James Sottile has approved a Victory Garden at City Hall, to be coordinated through City Clerk Kathy Janeczek and Martin.

The garden is still in the early stages of planning, said Janeczek, but “it will definitely come to fruition — no pun intended.”

Early discussions have indicated the garden would be planted on the flagpole side of City Hall, dimensions at perhaps 8 feet by 8 feet, she said.

Martin said the Kingston High School’s environmental class would be involved with its maintenance, and she has been discussing the prospect of gardens at the J. Watson Bailey Middle School and the Sophie Finn Elementary School with the district.

Noble said the trust has also spoken with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department about providing space for gardens in its parks.

Martin said there will be a citywide meeting about victory gardens in the city at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at 33 Broadway, Kingston. Anyone who would like more information should e-mail [email protected].

Martin said a concert with Pat Metheny and Larry Grenadier will be held at Coach House Players on Jan. 16 to raise money for the Kingston Land Trust the the community garden initiative. Tickets are available at Monkey Joe’s Roasting Company and Barcone’s Music.

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