Photo provided.

Neighborhood gardens bring people of different backgrounds and values together to share in the production and harvest of food close to home, and a network of them is growing in Ithaca. In 2021, the Ithaca Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) created a neighborhood garden of raised beds bordering the sidewalks along the Friends Meeting House in Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood, partly funded by an April 2021 Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Finger Lakes (formerly Sustainable Tompkins).

Photo by Sasha Paris.

Members of the Quaker community and a nearby couple tended the garden through 2021, growing an array of greens, herbs, tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables and flowers. The produce was explicitly available for any passerby to pick, and an estimated 5-10 members of the Northside community harvested it with a regularity that proved vital for making timely use of the perishable products. The gardeners found successes and challenges in crop choice, planting methods, coordinating garden maintenance, and engaging the neighborhood and harvesting. With this improved knowledge, they will continue the project into the future.

Photo by Sasha Paris.

Project organizer Elizabeth Keokosky wrote “The underlying goal, motivated by the increasingly stressful situation of the Fall 2020, Trump-disputed, Biden presidential election and of the escalation of Covid deaths and sense of isolation, was to try to create a feeling of optimism and hope in both Quakers within Meeting, and in our neighbors. […]  It was hoped that planning a garden using the idea of the abundance that always underlies nature and our gardens at home would be an antidote to a year which tested us all, even Quakers looking for the spirit in all things.”

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives building environmental stewardship, economic equity, and social justice in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by Craig Riecke, Beck Equipment, and the Park Foundation. Please donate today and help us support more citizen-driven projects increasing the resilience and well-being of our communities.

The next Neighborhood Mini-Grant application deadline is October 1, 2022. Email to request an application.