Blossburg V.I.B.E. Members See Fruits - and Vegetables - of Labor
Community garden now harvesting
BLOSSBURG, Aug. 7 -- After months of hard work in her plot at the Blossburg community garden, Mary Higgins entered her snapdragons in the Tioga County Fair and won a blue ribbon. Higgins is a member of the Blossburg V.I.B.E. community garden team that turned an empty lot across from the Blossburg Fire Hall on Main Street into a thriving garden this growing season and the harvest is beginning.
V.I.B.E. President Tonya McNamara led the effort to create a garden with expert guidance from Anne Fisher-LoPinto of Liberty and Diane Stehman of Arnot and lots of help from many community members.The garden consists of 19 individual 4' by 4' and 4' by 8' plots and four large community plots with potatoes and squash to rejuvenate the soil.
"The idea of a community garden has been floating around for a couple of years," McNamara said. "This year it all came together. The Borough of Blossburg allowed us to use the empty lot located in a flood zone and the Blossburg Municipal Authority provided access to water."
The goal of the garden is to provide access to land for planting for those who might not have it, as well as a supportive environment to learn about gardening, McNamara said. It has the additional benefit of using an unproductive lot of land near the borough business district.
"There's an innate need in people to see things grow," said Anne Fisher-LoPinto, who has run a "Community Supported Agriculture" garden in the Liberty area. "Somehow, touching soil opens up another dimension for people when they put a seed in the ground, tend and water it, watch it grow and come to fruit. The garden helps fill that need for people to see things grow by their own hand, providing a sense of accomplishment. It seems miraculous. It connects me to the cycles of life. If I'm not doing these things, I feel like a wheel with a flat spot."
In June, the garden hosted a composting class taught by Ardith Boostrom from the Penn State Cooperative Extension master gardener program. The 15 people who attended received a free composter. In May, Fisher-LoPinto gave a class on starting plants from seeds and transplanting.
"The garden has been very successful. We have about 15 different individuals and families with plots, plus Toddler University," McNamara said. "The age range of the gardeners is three to over 70."
Toddler University Daycare & Preschool offered a gardening summer camp for three-to-five year old children. Sixteen children worked on two four-by-eight boxes. They grew peppers, squash, flowers and cucumbers, learned about composting, made a worm farm and watering cans. "The garden is blooming!" said Toddler University owner and director Jill Nickerson. "This helped the children connect with the community and with the natural environment."
In May, V.I.B.E. received a $2,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to promote the existing farmers' market held every Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Riverside Plaza parking lot. V.I.B.E. used the funds to purchase advertising, benche, and a shed to store signs for the farmers' market. The shed also holds tools used by the community garden members.
The garden has been supported by donations of cash and goods from Jack and Mary Eckman, Carol and Larry Tama, Anne Fisher-LoPinto, Bill Nickerson and Blossburg Borough in addition to the box rent fees.
Photos of the garden are available at www.blossburg.org/vibe.
Blossburg V.I.B.E. (Visions in Business and Entertainment) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those who live, work, play or attend school in Blossburg. Tax-deductible contributions for the garden or other projects may be mailed to PO Box 126, Blossburg, PA 16912.