The Rapidian

[MIDTOWN] Midtown Community Garden a part of urban revitalization efforts

The garden currently has no water on site. Finishing touches are being put to the rain collection structure (visible in back).

The garden currently has no water on site. Finishing touches are being put to the rain collection structure (visible in back). /Jennifer Holshoe

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Four types of squash are bobbiding out of the community garden: zucchini, acorn, pumpkin (pictured above) and summer squash.

Four types of squash are bobbiding out of the community garden: zucchini, acorn, pumpkin (pictured above) and summer squash. /Midtown Community Garden on Facebook

Some early spring seedlings

Some early spring seedlings /Midtown Community Garden on Facebook

Seated in the center of Holland NE is a community garden unfurling in leafy greens and bright yellow blossoms. Sandwiched between two houses and their respective bull dogs, Midtown Community Garden boasts four types of squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.

Five years ago, it was an empty lot.

"Kelly was interested in transforming the lot from a vacant property to something beautiful," said Midtown Neighborhood Association organizer Amy Vanzoeren. Kelly Otto is MNA's community organizer and a Brikyaat resident. She commandeered the empty lot as a Brikyaat sub-neighborhood project.

"The garden has always existed, but we want to bring it to a broader attention. At first, it only existed as a Brikyaat garden," said Amy, who was hired as the neighborhood organizer in May and has since turned the garden into a revitalization effort to benefit the whole neighborhood. "This is the first year that the garden has had staff attention."

Since starting, Amy has created a Facebook page to announce biweekly garden clean-ups and monthly potlucks. Under her direction, a rain collection structure has been built and more improvements are in store for the six-plot space come fall. Materials such as lumber have been donated by community members, and clean-ups attract between 5-7 volunteers.

"We get a few volunteers from the street and the children love it. They are just curious. We get our tools out and the kids come," Amy said. "We're just like the pied pipers. They love to dig in the dirt, they love to plant, they are the most willing volunteers. And they give hugs."

At harvest time, the crops are divvied up among volunteers. Plots range in size from 4-by-6 feet to 6-by-6 feet. There is ample space for more plots, and Amy explained that MNA is not opposed to having more plots for individual community members, but no one has expressed interest.

"Most people in Midtown don't know about the garden," Amy said. She plans to draw attention during market days through sandwich boards as there is very heavy foot traffic that passes by the area on the way to the Fulton Street Farmers Market

We're really trying to create a sense of place where people can feel proud and enjoy the creativity of some very talented gardeners," said Amy, who welcomes more volunteers. "There's something beautiful happening there. My hope, by the end of the season with the harvest, people will look at it and say, 'oh wow! Look at what Midtown has to offer."

 

Compiled by Denise Cheng, MNA board member

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Comments

This is so great:)  I love reading about empty plots in town being turned into community gardens.  I drive by the one on Wealthy a couple times a week and it's such an inspiration.  I've heard that people often approach ICCF to use empty plots for community gardens, but I don't see them in action.  Maybe a good idea for the story bank would involve writing up a list of what's around twon?

That sounds great, Summer! Better yet, would you want to submit an article that maps out the various locations of community gardens around town? I also hear there are technical-legal definitions around community gardens.

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