a community garden grows

This post isn’t about Chester County.  It’s actually about something going on in Radnor Township. 

It’s about a community garden.

And that’s a good thing.

A few years ago, a group called Greener Partners showed up and asked Radnor if they could farm some public land at the Willows at Skunk Hollow.  At the time, I thought this was a mistake, because they were farming the land for their pricey subscription CSA – their shares were around $700 – $800 per family if memory serves.

I had tried them on for size with friends one of the first years they existed and the share was $500 for the season. And we spent most of the season NOT getting the produce that was on our produce list.   I mean I like Bok Choy and all, but when I got a list saying I was getting specific veggies and I would get 3 giant heads of Bok Choy instead, it got old fast.

Skunk Hollow at the Willows Summer 2010 (Greener Partners on site)

Greener Partners, was able to use 2 acres of land at the Willows and to use the Willows Cottage in essence for free or darn close to it. It went under the guise of Saving The Willows Cottage, but for free use of township, therefore public taxpayer owned land for in essence a private enterprise kind of smelled.  I thought it should be at least in part a community garden where people could have shares.  Instead it was an odd kind of arrangement, complete with housing their farmer close by.  Yes, their farmer.  And all the farmer did was complain.  Was the farmer really a slacker?  Not sure, but under his farmitude, the Skunk Hollow Farm was a weed pit (see photo I took in 2010 at right – those weren’t veggies, those were weeds.)

Around this time (or maybe slightly earlier) Greener Partners was also out in Willistown – again on in essence non-profit land.  Don’t know whatever happened there. In 2011 CSA shares at Greener Partners were $750.  Pricing is similar for 2012.  They seem to be out of Chester County and seen to have crept over to the other side of Montgomery County around Collegeville and they are still around Media.    Save your money with these people.  I believe in organic farming and CSAs and farm markets, but not these people.  Greener Partners was founded by a guy named Jason Ingle, whom I believe is also a former venture capitalist. He was part of that Radnor Hunt area dust-up a few years ago with M. Night Shyamalan and his fencing.  I at least agreed with that.

So why am I telling you about these days gone by?  To set the stage.  Last summer, Skunk Hollow at the Willows was a shambles.  Weeds and thistle and all sorts of stuff had invaded the 2 acres left at this point utterly untended save a few pathetic tomato plants.  It was amazing the disarray.  I mean even if Greener Partners was leaving, they should have in my opinion left the land at least tidy.  If you are even a temporary steward of public land, treat it with respect, right?

So one of my friends, Sara Pilling, a wonderful lady and talented gardener had an idea.  So she planned and measured and drew up plans….for a community garden in Radnor on the site of Skunk Hollow Farm at the Willows.  I used to hear about the plans for the garden when she took turns with my other friends driving me to radiation treatments for breast cancer.

So to speed the story up, Sara got approved for the garden (see YouTube below from Radnor Patch )

Shares of the garden new for 2012 went fast.  So now Sara and many other volunteers and future community gardeners are hard at work.  They have cleared the weeds and been working diligently.  What a bunch of volunteers have already accomplished versus what Greener Partner’s farmer and Greener Partners was supposed to have done at the Willows is amazing. And there is a new sense of community being fostered along with this garden.

(Sara also founded Common Ground community garden in Garrett Hill at Radnor United Methodist Church.)

Sara is a very modest person, a true Quaker and hates when she gets public props.  But I am going to do it anyway.  I have learned a lot from my friend and I am proud of her and the volunteers who have now brought two community gardens to Radnor Township.  (Read all about it in Main Line Media News today too.)  

I think this is something other municipalities should pay attention to and create within their own borders.  Especially out here in Chester County.  I have seen some small community looking gardens here and there, but I think this is something municipalities should encourage and should also sponsor these gardens.  Not pay for them, but to allow the space if there is an interest.  It is a good thing economically, and surplus can go to local food banks.

Of course one other thing that community gardens accomplish is that they literally build community.  That in and of itself, considering the world in which we live, is priceless.

Besides, digging in the dirt is just good for the soul.   I did some of that today myself.

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a good thing in chester county

I discovered courtesy of a friend, something in Chester County I find very cool – a non-profit called the Chester County Fund For Women and Girls.

It is never too early to empower the next generation of women.  I also believe in true philanthropy, and teaching anyone how to pay it forward.

Being strong is not something women and girls all know from jump.   Neither is learning to give back just because it is the right thing to do.
Sounds pretty cool to me.