With a $10,000 grant from the Massachusetts Council on Aging, we partnered with the COA/Hazelwood Senior Center in New Bedford’s south end to build eight raised bed gardens to grow an abundance of vegetables this summer.
In March, we sat down with the Hazelwood Senior Center Activities Coordinator, Director of Parks, Recreation & Beaches, the Office of Housing and Community Development, DFFM, and local farmer, Ashley Brister from Round the Bend Farm and began brainstorming and planning what the garden would look like.
Seniors completed surveys that gave us a good idea of what kinds of vegetables they would like to grow and how often they could help. The Weekly Garden Club was created, and in mid-March began planting kale, tomato, parsley, oregano, lettuce, chives, and flower seeds in indoor seed trays so they could begin growing while it was still cold out.
The group was very hands-on and dedicated to maintaining the seedlings – checking the soil for hydration and dutifully turning the seedling containers to ensure adequately distributed sunlight. In April, the nearby Rainbow Daycare found out about the project, and soon enough their students were visiting the Senior Center and helping out!
Children from the daycare helped bring new energy to the project and allowed seniors to teach the children all they were learning at the garden. The seniors enjoyed the intergenerational aspect of the project while the kids were excited to learn about gardening and to get their hands dirty.
In late May, the seedlings were transplanted to the eight new raised garden beds built at the Senior Center – the plants were maintained and continually cared for with the help of DFFM and the Weekly Garden Club. In June, the group planted pear trees, blueberry bushes, and strawberries – adding to their bounty!
Throughout the summer, the Weekly Garden Club, along with the daycare children, took home freshly harvested produce, and the community was treated to a couple cooking demonstrations where they learned how to make simple, healthy dishes with produce picked straight from the garden.
We finished the season and grant by adding two additional beds to optimize growing capacity for future seasons.
The garden has been a great success, and we look forward to the 2015 spring growing season! If you are interested in participating, or are interested in starting a community garden in your neighborhood, please contact the Hazelwood Senior Center at (508) 991-6208. Check out the video below about the project….