Learn more about Boston Natural Areas Network.
Genevieve Rajewski covers animal issues, food, and agriculture for publications such as The Boston Globe and Edible Boston. Read more at genevieverajewski.com.
After days of heavy rain in June, the sun blazed on Nightingale Garden. It seemed tomato weather suddenly couldn’t wait for Dorchester’s newly expanded and now largest community garden to get up and running – and apparently neither could local residents.
“On opening day, people were so excited. They arrived at the gates two or three hours early,” says Elnora Thompson, the garden’s coordinator of 20 years, who has just seen it quadruple in growing capacity to 134 plots.
That ravenous appetite for garden space speaks to the runaway success of the most ambitious undertaking to date by Trustees’ affiliate Boston Natural Areas Network.
“Several years ago, we realized that all the plots in the city were consistently subscribed with waiting lists…except in Dorchester,” explains Valerie Burns, president of the nonprofit supporter of Boston’s 153 community gardens. To address the roots of underuse in Dorchester gardens, BNAN launched Boston Is Growing Gardens, or BIGG, a program aimed at doubling the productivity of community gardens in Boston’s largest neighborhood.
BIGG started out by partnering with neighborhood senior centers, youth programs, churches, health centers and other organizations that make up the social structure of Dorchester. The partners help overcome language barriers among the many cultural groups and sow understanding of the benefits of community gardens.
Meanwhile, BIGG also set about making gardens more productive. Seven gardens already have been upgraded or expanded through changes like more efficient designs, new fencing, improved soil and modern water systems. By this time next year, BNAN expects BIGG to have created 250 new community garden plots in Dorchester – with each plot typically growing enough fresh produce to feed five people.
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