Garden seeks your votes

First Posted: 4/20/2015

SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Community. Gathering. Sharing. Ideas. Knowledge. Experience.

These are all words Vice Chairman of the Abington Area Joint Recreation Board (AAJRB) South Abington appointed board member and co-chair of Community Garden Committee Carolyn Crowley used to describe the potential for the Abington Community Garden at Hillside Park’s plans for expansion if the park receives one of two $20,000, five $10,000 grants, or 10 $1,000 grants through Seeds of Change Grant Program.

From now until April 27, members of the community may vote for the Abington Community Garden at Hillside Park in South Abington Township to receive any of the amounts. In order for the park to be eligible to move onto the judging phase of the grant, it must be in the top 50 number of votes within all community garden applications.

The Seeds of Change grant program will award grant money to an organization with “a strong community base, and we have that here in the community garden,” said Crowley. The park is currently in its eighth growing season, and is so popular there have been years-long wait lists for plots.

According to its website, the grant program aims to enhance the well-being of communities through environmental, economic and social contributions created from community gardens.

Crowley said the community park’s grant application includes plans to expand its educational opportunities and create a gathering space at the park, as well as complete some water pipe upgrades.

“Part of the community portion of the garden is meeting fellow gardeners and sharing ideas and education and learning from each other,” Crowley said.

“We need a shady gathering place. We’re fortunate the garden is in a sunny spot; it’s great for the vegetables. It’s not so great for the gardeners in July when they’ve been pulling weeds,” she joked.

Benches, tables, places where people can sit and have lunch or gather comfortably are what Crowley envisions for the park.

“The gathering space would also help us expand some of our educational opportunities we do offer,” Crowley.

Donna Zagrapan, master gardener and co-chair of the community garden committee with Crowley, said the committee’s goal is to offer educational sessions from master gardeners monthly.

“There is always new information to learn from the organic growing community,” Zagrapan said, adding there are 17 new master gardeners in Lackawanna County who need community service opportunities.

“It’s a great asset to have a master gardener be able to be in your garden with you,” Crowley added. “It’s different when you have the gardener there looking at your plant instead of just reading about it. The gardeners have such a passion for the learning and the knowledge of gardening.”

Zagrapan said amounts awarded would help the park educate others about organic pesticides and possibly obtain row covers and build a small structure to keep birds and animals from damaging fruits and vegetables growing in the garden.

“We also need to do some basic water pipe upgrades,” Crowley said. Hydrants on one side of the park have extremely high water pressure because of their location over a water main. The garden may be able to purchase a control valve with the grant money to prevent excess water pressure which causes hoses to break. “We can’t keep a hose more than a year,” Zagrapan said.

The community garden committee also helps give back to the community by donating excess fresh produce. Gardeners can place excess produce in baskets during the growing season which are donated to the Abington Senior Center and the food pantry. Crowley said fresh produce is delivered about every other day.

Anyone can vote once a day at Enter the zip code 18411 and the Abington Community Garden at Hillside Park is the only community garden option.

“Seeds of Change is a reputable organization,” Zagrapan said. “It’s the first time we’ve ever had to had anyone vote, and we really need the public’s help.”

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