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City hopes community digs new garden

April 18, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Master gardener Gordon Bartels adds leaf mold to the salad table at Girls Inc. in Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

HAGERSTOWN -- Cooperative gardening is taking root at a Hagerstown park.

The city has set aside space at Hager Park, near Municipal Stadium, for residents to grow and harvest produce together.

The "Dig In, Hagerstown!" program builds off current community gardening done through the local office of Maryland's Collaborative Supervision and Focused Enforcement (CSAFE) program.

Councilwoman Ashley Haywood, who has been part of community growing at Bester Elementary School, wanted the city to have a garden, too.

She said low-income families often can't afford fresh produce, a key part of staying healthy. Many people want to garden, she said, but don't have land.

"It's really a great feeling to have something on your plate and say that I grew that ...," Haywood said. "I'm hoping to pass that sense of pride on to every citizen."

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Working the land together also helps people connect with neighbors and their community, she said.

The city is scheduled to hold a community garden kickoff event April 30.

Volunteers will be asked to work a few hours a week at the garden in return for a share of what's grown.

Haywood said she was inspired by University of Maryland Cooperative Extension master gardeners Gordon and Janet Bartels, who teach agriculture and gardening to local children through CSAFE.

The Hagerstown couple works with children at local schools, Memorial Recreation Center and Girls Inc.

One recent afternoon, Gordon Bartels explained to a group of Winter Street Elementary School students the basics of planting on a "salad table," a portable frame with legs. It can be moved according to the weather and sunlight.

He also showed them how to use an EarthBox, a self-watering garden container.

Gordon Bartels said they've planted potatoes, carrots, onions and other vegetables with the children.

When they help grow the food, children who were fussy eaters open their minds and mouths, Janet Bartels said.

She said children grow to enjoy recipes with healthful ingredients, such as kale pizza or zucchini cookies.

Carolyn Brooks, the local CSAFE coordinator, credited the Bartelses with keeping the program successful.

Hagerstown has designated an acre at Hager Park for a community garden, but is putting about an eighth of it to use to start.

Six rectangular raised beds are there, inside a chain-link fence.

The Bartelses and the Antietam Creek Watershed Alliance have signed on to help, and others are expected.

"Volunteers are just rolling in," Haywood said.

A draft worksheet summarizing the program says security is good because a city employee lives in a home overlooking the garden and costs are low.

Schools, volunteer organizations, businesses and families will be encouraged to "adopt a seedling" and place it in a window with information about the community garden.

During a discussion at a council meeting last month, Haywood said, "The goal is to create a more sustainable food consumption pattern."

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