Mill City Grows threw a garden party on the first day of summer last week to celebrate the first season of the City’s first community garden blooming in the Back Central neighborhood.
Developed as part of the City Manager’s 2012 Back Central Neighborhood Initiative, the Rotary Park Community Garden has forty, 4′x10′ gardeners’ beds and four, 2.5′x10′ demonstration beds. Forty gardeners from diverse backgrounds have signed up, creating an international flavor to the garden which will convert an idle and problematic lot into a productive urban farm. Filling the beds are plantings of eggplant, corn, beans cabbage, lettuce, beets, arugula, strawberries, herbs husk cherries and lemon grass to name just a few. And of course, the ever popular tomato.
Garden operations will be coordinated by Mill City Grows, a new organization dedicated to creating and stimulating urban food production. The mission of Mill City Grows (MCG) is to “improve physical health, economic independence and environmental sustainability in Lowell through increased access to land, locally grown food and education.”
“With this first community garden, we hope to seed the concept of sustainable urban gardening across the city,” said City Manager Bernie Lynch. “Back Central, with its long history of backyard gardens, is a natural spot to launch this effort.”
Aside from the abundant greenery, the garden is already reaping a harvest in terms of community building. The Manager’s office recently received this lovely note from a resident in the neighborhood,
I live in Back Central and am thrilled that my family is so close to the first garden through Mill City Grows. It’s great to have Rotary Park revived, and to provide such a great resource for both healthy foods and community-building through the garden. I have a young son, and it’s been great to meet some nearby families, and to share info and veggies with other friends who have plots this season. From all of these perspectives, I greatly appreciate the Rotary Park community garden. I’m thrilled that Mill City Grows has a handful of other garden sites in the works elsewhere in the City and look forward to working with them to support fresh foods access for even more City residents.”
MCG has partnered with the City and the Back Central Neighborhood Group (BCNA) and will conduct training classes for new gardeners. The city’s Planning and Public Works departments provided support in planning and constructing the 9,000 square foot garden area. BCNA has long advocated for community gardens.
Twenty-six of the gardeners are low-income and qualify for scholarships (Mill City Grows received CDBG funding to provide scholarships for the Gardener Training Program). All of the beds have been reserved and planted. In fact, response has been so great that MCG is currently taking applications for a waiting list.