A group of community gardeners from both the Florence Street Community Garden and the Tremont Street Community Garden gathered on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 to discuss the second iteration of a design for a proposed public art and urban agriculture project. Hosted by MAPC’s Arts & Culture Team and Everett Community Growers, with support from the City of Everett, residents discussed a plan for a garden area featuring a central sculptural seating element with concentric circles of paths and garden mounds radiating out from that point. The design concept represents a ripple on the surface of water, caused by a drop of water. In this vision, community gardeners are all drops of water, creating a ripple effect to encourage more people to get involved in the community.
MAPC Artist in Residence Carolyn Lewenberg shared a vision of this art project, explaining that the design will not only spark visual interest, but will also provide two main functions: to grow food and build community. She explained that the first step in the project would be to create the visually eye-catching aspects: a central sculpture and neat brick paths would pique people’s interest in what is being built on the bike path. Signage at the sculpture and paths would orient people to the work days if anyone is interested in getting involved. The plan is to build the bench and paths in March, and the garden beds would be created during Saturday work days from March 24 until the end of April. All community members are invited to join the work parties, and we hope this will be a great community building experience.
The garden mounds will be made from burying Christmas trees and branches in compost and topsoil. This method of garden construction is called “Hugelkultur” and is a great way to use tree debris to create a self-fertilizing system that requires little water once established. The community discussed planting these hugelmounds with crops that are harder to grow in small garden plots. The group agreed that each of the three garden mounds would be planted differently: one will have corn, one will be a pumpkin patch, and one will be a mix of annual flowers to attract pollinators and raspberries and blackberries. Spreading herbs may be planted at the base of the garden mounds. Community Gardener Jorge committed to being the primary farmer for the corn, and the point people for the blackberry/raspberry/ flower bed and the pumpkin patch have yet to be identified. Let us know if you are interested! We realize that the success of this project lies in the commitment of community members who will regularly visit, pull weeds, and water the plants.
The revised design also creates a space for gathering, which was emphasized at the first design review conversation in December. Community Gardeners asked for space to have workshops, concerts, garden parties and a place for kids to play while adults work in the garden. The sculptural water drop bench is the center of that gathering space, so people can have a place to sit and relax. Cushions for the bench and more seating would be available in a shed, similar to the ones at the Community Farm and the other Gardens. In the proposed design, the shed provides a structure on which we could grow grapes, and having a grape arbor over the shed will also serve to keep it cool in the summer.
The meeting, held at La Comunidad, INC, drew a diverse and intergenerational group of individuals and families. Materials were translated into Spanish, and residents were not only invited to help build the garden, they were also invited to capture the process through images and reflections. The group recognized that community gardening contributes to physical and mental health and social wellbeing, and that documenting health outcomes of this project may demonstrate success to the City and other communities who we may be interested in supporting more projects like this in the future.
Everett Community Growers, a key partner in the project and the local membership organization working to improve health outcomes and increase civic and community engagement through urban agriculture and other food justice initiatives is also working with The City of Everett and MAPC’s public health team on a Community Food Assessment. As part of the Community Food Assessment, they are capturing portraits and food stories from community members. As part of this project, we plan to incorporate these portraits and stories on tiles that would be integrated into the sculpture.
Key partners in the Earthworks project also include the UMass Boston (UMB) School for the Environment and the Trotter Institute. This project is made possible with a technical assistance grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and with in-kind support from the City of Everett and Everett Community Growers.