August is harvest, harvest, harvest time, and nowhere is this more evident than the new Essex community garden. If you haven’t visited the lawn behind Essex Town Hall lately, you’re in for a surprise. Veggies galore!
Essex Community Garden: Back Story
I stopped in to speak with William Morgan (Essex Town Clerk) the other day, and he was quick to credit two two people, Louis Comeau and Meg Parker, for making the Essex community garden a reality.
Louis Comeau started this effort right from the beginning… He went around to other communities and saw that most of them had a community garden as a way to bring the community together. (William Morgan)
Three years ago Louis read a newspaper article about the Town of Jay’s community garden. He wondered if Others would be interested in cooperating on an Essex community garden. Louis reached out to Jay Deputy Town Clerk Carol Greeley and Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas to learn more about their experience. He was given copies of Jay’s Community Garden Application and Plot Holder Agreement, and he was referred to Meg Parker, the Outreach Coordinator for Essex County Public Health.
Parker coordinates the Creating Healthy Places grant operated by Public Health. The grant is funded by NYS Department of Health and supports access to nutritious foods [and opportunities for physical activity] for chronic disease prevention. (The Valley News)
A grant from the “Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play” initiative had funded the Jay community card, so Louis set about exploring similar possibilities for the town of Essex. He spoke with Meg and learned what was involved in establishing and maintaining a community garden. He arranged a site visit for Meg to evaluate whether or not the lawn behind Essex Town Hall might be a suitable location for an Essex community garden. Meg measured and confirmed that the lawn would be suitable, and Louis proposed attractive, elevated garden beds. Meg tasked Louis with identifying at least five Essex residents interested in participating in the initiative, and he easily found more than enough people who wanted to participate.
With Essex Town Supervisor Edward Gardner’s support, Louis and Meg moved forward. A proposed lot map with twelve garden plots (and potential for nine additional plots at a later time if deemed necessary) was drafted; elevated garden planter design was proposed; Essex community garden agreements and plot holder agreements were drawn up.
Essex Community Garden a Success
William worked closely with Louis and the Essex Town Board to move the project forward, and Meg helped arrange a grant to pay for the raised beds. According to William, Louis and Meg “worked through rainstorms and hot days” to ensure that the project progressed efficiently. All the while community members were signing up (and paying $10 per raised bed) to participate in the community garden.
I caught up with Louis Comeau this afternoon and asked him about the experience.
I’ve really enjoyed it. William Morgan has been watering everything, and I can weed the entire garden in about twenty minutes… Next year I think it would be nice to organize some times when everybody could get together socially for gardening. And maybe more kids… And herbs. You just plant them and that’s it. Hopefully next year we’ll have some herbs. (Louis Comeau)
Louis went on to explain that they started a little late this season due to construction, etc. Next year he’s hoping that an earlier start will entice more community gardeners to participate.
I wandered through the elevated beds several times early in the summer, observing names popping up on elevated beds and wondering who would plant what. Little by little the mysteries revealed themselves, and during my most recent visit I was astounded with how lush and hardy everything looks! I’ll let you take your own outing to the Essex community garden to discover who favored tomatoes, who favored beans. And what about that fairytale thicket of raspberries (or blackberries?)
During Essex Day I was impressed with how attractively the elevated beds complemented the vendors’ stalls. Resident and visitors alike wandered the Essex community garden undoubtedly tempted to sample the produce but stealing only envious glances. I asked William how he felt about the location.
The location has been perfect. It blends in well, and Essex Day was taken into consideration for tent location…” (William Morgan)
It sounds like the success of the 2014 Essex community garden has guaranteed its success, and unless something unanticipated arises it will remain in the same location. Touch base with Louis Comeau or William Morgan if you’d like to get involved next summer.
2014 Essex Community Garden Gallery
Enjoy a few photographs from the inaugural 2014 Essex community garden season. Click on the thumbnails below to see a larger version. If you have images to contribute, please send them along! Thanks.
- Photo: Essex Town Hall (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm Summer Celebration (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Independence Day Parade (rosslynredux.com)
- A Local’s Look at The Dirty Life (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Leaf Peeping in the High Peaks (rosslynredux.com)
- Essex Farm: Nature Will Find a Way (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)