The community garden is alive and well in the City of Taylor… Well, it will be again in the spring.
From May through October, as part of a community-service agreement, several convicted non-violent lawbreakers are ordered tend to a 1,000-square-foot garden behind the new historical library in Heritage Park. The result of their labor is the growth of hundreds of pounds of vegetables, which are donated to the William Ford Senior Activity Center, some churches and the Gleaners Community Food Bank.
“The community garden has been very successful,” said 23rd District Court Judge Geno Salomone, who instituted the garden as a type of community service.
Judge Salomone, a gardener himself, said he thought the community garden was a great idea when Judge Anthony Nicita used it years ago as part of his sentencing. Nicita had a garden set up behind the old courthouse on Goddard Road and Salomone decided to resurrect the idea in the park.
“First and foremost, it provides food to people who need it,” Salomone said. “This is a way to give back to the community. Secondly, it’s another tool for trying to teach people who have committed crimes that they need to be respectful of other people and their properties and to respect themselves. If you work in a garden and see how much time it takes to cultivate and produce, you’re there to see the end product.”
The judge thanked D & L Garden Center, the Department of Golf, Parks and Recreation and Department of Public Works for their assistance in the community garden. The sentenced gardeners were under the supervision of Taylor residents Bruce Forrest and Patty Donahue, a pair of master gardeners who taught the offenders the basics of gardening.
“We call it the Goodwill Garden, because our goal was to teach and spread good will throughout the community – by growing and harvesting food for others, by creating a beautiful space within the park to look at, and by teaching respect for the land and wildlife in the garden,” said Donahue, a member of the Taylor Garden Club.
The court-appointed gardeners planted, weeded, watered and harvested the plantings. Since the garden was organic, no chemicals were allowed.
“I think community gardening is an important part of city life,” Donahue said. “Gardens are communities in themselves. Gardens bring people together on a regular basis to share ideas, food and fellowship. It's part of what I call ‘cultivating community,’ which was my theme for my term as president of the Taylor Garden Club. I would like the city to consider integrating community gardens with other community development strategies.”
That is the next step of the community garden. Salomone and his team expect to expand the garden and “make it prettier.” The garden will be big enough to provide lots to residents interested in planting.
Donahue said, “We’d like to bring more collaboration into the garden – perhaps partnering with local restaurants to growing specialty lettuces and herbs for them, growing a pumpkin patch and sunflower house for kids or for a senior group. I would love to see a youth group lease a plot or two as well.”
Plots are 10-by-17 feet and can be leased for $10 for the year. All plots must be harvested and cleaned up by November 1. To get a registration form, contact Bruce Forrest at (313) 295-1889.