Growing a Community

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Lane Russell's picture

Cambridge community gardens bring nature and friendship to the urban environment

Living in the city of Cambridge has many benefits: a diverse population, thousands of caring citizens, various types of restaurants, a vibrant creative community and the convenience of urban life. What the city lacks is what most cities lack: nature.

A lack of nature and opportunity to connect with the earth is why the Community Garden Program, run by the Conservation Commission, is so important.

“A community garden is a place where Cambridge residents can come and tend their own plots … And it’s a place for people who live in the city who don’t have backyards or access to outside to be able to connect with the earth,” said Laura Tuach, a Cambridge resident who has been gardening at the Sacramento Street Community Garden for the past five years.

The gardens provide a space where people in the dense Cambridge environment can have a “rural sense of self, pride and sustainability,” said Department Director Jennifer Letourneau. 

“People always tell me they love walking through and visiting [the garden], so that’s heartening,” said Nita Sembrowich, co-manager of the Field of Dreams community garden on Elmer and Banks Street.

For Tucah, Sembrowich and other gardeners, the Cambridge community gardens are a place where they can not only connect with the earth, but connect with themselves. 

“I like the creativity of shaping a space, I like having fresh food to eat, I enjoy the flowers, and just coming here is such a relaxing experience for me,” said Sembrowich as she gestured to her bountiful plot of both flowers and vegetables. 

Tuach shared a similar sentiment, “[I love] being able to connect to the source of what feeds us, to the earth. To create something beautiful, to grow things. I also love gardening because I love being able to feed my family with fresh, organic vegetables. It grounds me, it centers me.” 

Gardeners also enjoy the community aspect of the community gardens. When they have been at the garden for years - as Tuach has - they get to know fellow gardeners by name and work together to make the garden a beautiful place. 

Community gardeners are not the only people who can enjoy the gardens. While a few of the gardens are locked, many of them have a simple fence surrounding them, or no fence at all. This allows for “anyone who is walking by to come in and walk the paths and take in the beauty,” said Tuach. 

“I like being able to share with the community. I know a lot of gardens are fenced in, but we like to have ours open to allow people to move through, “ Sembrowich said. 

Recently, many people have become more conscious of the source of their food. Because of this, community gardens have risen in popularity. The typical waiting period on a community garden waiting list is two years. Both Sembrowich and Tuach said, however, that two years does not always mean two years. 

Tuach advised that if you are interested in becoming involved with Cambridge community gardens, “just get on the waiting list, anywhere. Some people get discouraged because the waiting lists are so long, but people move, the waiting lists are constantly being culled.”

It is important to remember that having a plot in a community garden is not an easy task. 

“It’s a big commitment,” Sembrowich said. “A lot of people are interested now, but I don’t think they realize how much work is involved. You have to keep up with it all season… If you stick with it, it can be incredibly rewarding, and I think it’s worth the tedium.” 

The application process for the community gardens is different for each garden, but generally if you get in contact with the garden manager or the city’s department director, you can get your name on the list. 

Community gardens have a very positive impact on the community, not only because they provide a place for city-dwellers to connect with nature, but because they reinforce the beauty of what it means to be part of a community. 

“I love that community gardens provide space for people to grow, meet, and share their backgrounds,” said  Letourneau.

“I think it’s important to have these little places in the city where people can feel rejuvenated and connected to the land ... It helps to weave the community of Cambridge together just a little bit more, in its own gentle way,” said Tuach. 

For more information, including applications and contact information, visit the Cambridge Community Garden Program website at: https://www.cambridgema.gov/ccc/communitygardenprogram1

 

 

 

Comments

mholbrow's picture

Love the article, great photos, love the community garden program  - thanks for writing such a good piece about it. My garden is in Nita S's Field of Dreams-- the people who serve as garden administrators deserve a lot of thanks and credit.