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port jefferson community garden

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Everything is planted and growing in nicely at the new Port Jefferson Community Garden. 

Located on Beach Street, dozens of local volunteers helped create and institute the home for homegrown veggies and other plants that were planted in 16 raised metal beds.

And now, after a lot of dirt, sweat and elbow grease, eggplants, heads of lettuce and different flowers are starting to sprout up.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay, who planted the seed for this pilot project earlier in the year, said that it’s going to be more than just your typical garden. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“To build the physical infrastructure of a community garden is one thing, but from early in the planning process, the committee agreed that dynamic educational programming for both the Beach Street gardeners and the community at large was essential to our mission,” she said. “When we gather to open our minds and learn together, we benefit both as individuals and as a community.”

This Monday, on July 19, Port Jefferson Village Community Garden is hosting its very first program, “Best Practices for Organic Vegetable Gardening” at 6 p.m. 

A representative from Cornell Cooperative Extension will be discussing tips and techniques to get the most out of your organic vegetable garden and will be held on the garden grounds.

“Whether you’re a novice or a pro, eight years old or 88 years old, come down and learn something at this Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County program, sponsored by the Port Jefferson Free Library,” she said. “We ask that attendees bring their own chair if they wish to sit during the presentation.”

The program is free for Port Jefferson residents and non-residents. For anyone so inclined to contribute, there will be a jar to collect donations for the community garden to fund future programs and garden projects.

“This is the first of many programs on offer from the Garden to help locals —Port Jeff residents and beyond — make the most of their personal and shared green space,” she said. “I’ve been gardening since I could walk, but especially because it’s Cornell Cooperative Extension program, I’m sure that I’ll learn something new on Monday.”

Progress is being made at the Beach Street community garden in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

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.  

Volunteers putting the garden beds together. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“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.

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A rendering of the potential community garden located on Beach Street in the Village of Port Jefferson. Photo from Rebecca Kassay

On Monday, March 15 at 3:30 p.m., the Village Board of Trustees and Mayor Margot Garant will vote on a resolution proposed by Trustee Rebecca Kassay to launch a pilot community garden program in Port Jefferson Village. 

The community garden aims to provide residents, who otherwise do not have garden-ready outdoor space, with square footage to grow their own local, organic food. The garden also provides new recreation and learning opportunities for community members of all ages and skill levels. 

Since the year’s start, Kassay and the 11 hardworking members of the Community Garden Committee have researched and met virtually to assemble the 14-page proposal for this pilot program. 

The pilot is proposed for currently-vacant village parkland located at the intersection of Beach Street and Sheldrake Avenue. The plan proposes 16 raised beds, noting that some should be built double-high for residents with different abilities. 

The committee is currently responding to questions sent by the board after the initial pilot presentation at the village board meeting on March 1, addressing specifics around community programming, initial budget and infrastructure. 

If the board approves the pilot program at this Monday’s village meeting, the Community Garden Committee expects that gardeners can be signed up and growing their own produce by early this summer. 

The pilot program will launch with a modest budget, seeking to raise funds and attract material donations for the project. 

Throughout the year, the committee plans to invite local experts and enthusiasts to host programs offering gardening how-to’s, cooking lessons, nutrition/wellness tips, children’s activities and more. 

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. 

Any residents interested in updates about this project can email [email protected] Residents who are interested in updates about this project can sign up for the garden newsletter here.

Courtesy of Port Jefferson Village Trustee Rebecca Kassay.