Nearly three-dozen volunteers spent their Saturday building metal beds that will soon be home to veggies and other plants at Port Jefferson’s new community garden.
On May 22, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., 32 volunteers contributed between one to nine hours of volunteer work toward the building of the Beach Street Community Garden.
The build comes after months of planning, spearheaded by trustee Rebecca Kassay and the PJV Community Garden Committee — a group of volunteers who helped scout out a location that would be beneficial to gardeners young and old.
“While I planted the seed, it could not have sprouted, thrived and borne fruit like this without the time, efforts and support of so many individuals and groups,” she said.
Kassay said the garden will be able to give residents an opportunity to grow local, organic food and enjoy outdoor recreation together, while creating learning opportunities for its villagers and maintaining parkland.
The pilot project was approved unanimously by the village during its March 15 board meeting, and $4,000 of village beautification funds was contributed specifically for irrigation and raised-bed materials.
“Looking at how far this project has come in such a short span of time — only five months — I am overwhelmed by gratitude for this community, the passionate individuals who stepped up to the Community Garden Committee, and community stakeholders who didn’t hesitate to ask how they could help make it happen,” Kassay said. “On Saturday, we kept saying ‘many hands make light work,’ and that was true for the day as well as the project at large.”
While Saturday saw hot temperatures and slight humidity, that didn’t stop the group from prepping the land for its new life. For years, the space on Beach Street was home to a playground that eventually fell into disrepair. As of late, it was an empty lot.
According to Kassay, the volunteers assembled 24 raised-bed kits — each with about 150 pieces in the kit; lined the bottoms of each bed with cardboard; installed 25 fence posts; dug a 12-inch trench around the perimeter of the garden; stapled up deer fencing; installed a poultry netting rodent guard; and moved about 9 cubic yards of topsoil into the raised beds — thanks to Holmes Irrigation which donated company time to help.
“I think it’s an excellent use of property that has sat vacant for too many years with really not a good function,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. “I think this will add another dimension to our community. It’ll engage our residents … maybe assist with businesses that want to do organic gardening. It’s really a win-win.”
Resident Kelly DeVine came down to help out because she was excited for the cause.
“I’ve watched this piece of property go from a playground to this disused lot,” she said. “And when I heard about the community garden, I was really thrilled because I like the environmental aspect of it and the opportunity to start encouraging people to compost, but also the community building. I’m meeting so many of my neighbors out here on this beautiful day and that’s what is so special about living in Port Jeff.”
If the pilot garden project is successful, the committee expects to expand with more raised beds at the Beach Street site in 2022, and in subsequent years create a second garden site at the Highlands parkland uptown.
In order to become a part of the garden’s community, there is a lottery system to obtain a raised bed. There are 20 total raised beds available for rent, with four communal herb/flower beds for registered gardeners. Four of the raised beds have higher sides for gardeners with different abilities.
Submissions are due to Village Hall by June 4 and recipients will be notified via email by June 10.
Those interested can apply at portjeff.com/communitygarden, or may drop off the lottery form to Port Jefferson Village Hall, Raised Bed Lottery, 121 W. Broadway, Port Jefferson, NY 11777.