River and Roots Community Garden is one year old and I’ve been thinking a lot about the change that has taken place around our location.
A year ago people had concerns about going to that area. Now folks love going there. A previously blighted lot, the community garden is beautiful and has great views of the river and all its wildlife. RRCG has developed a community amongst its members as well as a relationship with the broader community of Riverhead.
I interact with multiple generations when I’m at the garden. We have families with young children, families with older children, couples with no children, individuals, and retirees. The garden provides opportunities to work together and increase communication between the generations.
A year ago I never had much interaction with the clients at Maryhaven or East End Disabilities Associates. But now each group has a garden bed. They are a joyous bunch. No drama and so happy to enjoy the garden with me.
I worked with the clients from Maryhaven on Square Foot Gardening. I was standing by the gate as each person walked into the garden, looked me in the eye, offered their hand and said “Hello Amy. My name is…..” They were eager to get to work and do it right! Some moved compost to the bed, one built a trellis for cucumber vines, and many planted seeds. They truly embraced the joys of gardening. It
was one of the most rewarding hours of my life. They make me happy and I can’t wait to see them in the garden again.
A year ago I never had much interaction with the Latin American community. Now that the garden is next to the laundromat where Latin American men, who work all week at labor intensive jobs, come to do their laundry I interact with them regularly. I’m glad we worked to have the benches in front of the garden installed so they can sit a spell and enjoy the comings and goings on Main Street and the beautiful garden and river view. We nod and say hello. Laurie has told them repeatedly in her effective, but modest, Spanish to please help themselves to the peas, or beans, or raspberries growing along the garden fence. They never do. We always have to harvest and hand it to them and they always graciously accept it. But they would never take it themselves despite our encouragement.
Sister Margaret from the North Fork Spanish Apostolate shared our application with her congregants and now we have several community garden members from the Latin American community. Their English is much better than my Spanish, but hey, maybe I’ll get to learn a new language!
I get to interact with families with ties to Riverhead but no longer live here. Last year we planted a fig tree in memory of Dr. John Goldman. Last week the family returned to install a fig tree in memory of Mrs. Roslyn Goldman and a climbing rose for Dr. Susan Brandes, Dr. & Mrs. Goldman’s daughter. But before the family’s arrival Hollis Warner, proprietor of Peconic Monument Works, and his son Jeremy, donated their time and materials to repairing Dr. Goldman’s memorial stone which had been defaced prior to the establishment of the garden.
The community garden boasts a Brownie Troop and a Girl Scout Troop. They are learning all about gardening but they are also learning about caring for their community. They spent last summer harvesting vegetables to be delivered to the food pantry. They got to see a part of our community they had never seen before.
Once the community garden went in and showed such tremendous improvement to the area, the comfort station was renovated. Now downtown has a playground. Dennis McDermott already took a chance on Main Street and created a destination restaurant, theRiverheadProject. And Dee Muma always believed in the appeal of Main Street and proved it when she renovated One Main Street into duplexes and created the Dark Horse restaurant. Summerwind will have residents living on Peconic Avenue who will shop and dine on Main Street. The Suffolk Theater is near completion. Ralph’s Italian Ices has a line out the door whenever I go for a treat. The Riverhead BID has developed many great events that bring people and an air of excitement downtown. As we increase foot traffic we will have completed the transformation from a blighted area that was an invitation to illicit behavior to a shining jewel that all Riverhead residents can be proud of.
River and Roots Community Garden will be open to the public during the East End Arts Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival on Sunday, May 27, from noon to 5 p.m. Please stop by for a tour.
In the garden this week:
Amy Davidson is a resident of downtown Riverhead and co-founder of River and Roots Community Garden. She has been a backyard gardener for 15 years. When she is not in the garden she is herding seven chickens, two dogs, two cats, two kids and one very patient husband.