Volunteers come together to help struggling community garden

Volunteers come together to help struggling community garden

Kate Donovan, of Blackstone, demonstrates how to harvest oregano at the Millville Community Garden. (Breeze photos by Lauren Clem)

MILLVILLE. Mass. – When Mark Robinson founded the Millville Community Garden in 2016, the idea was to create a neighborhood space where volunteers could come together over their shared love of gardening, while also helping out others in need.

For the first two years, the idea drew plenty of support, with volunteers helping to plant an initial crop in spring 2017. By the end of the summer, the group harvested tomatoes, peppers, squash and zucchini, and donated the produce to the food pantry at St. Paul’s Church in Blackstone, which benefits residents of both towns.

Then, at the end of last year, Robinson moved from Millville to Whitinsville and found himself unable to get to the garden as often as he had before. With volunteer numbers dwindling, he struggled to find regular help, and weeds began to take over the small plot behind the Millville Police Department at 10 Central St.

Kate Donovan, a Blackstone resident and fellow garden volunteer, helped secure some volunteers from the CVS Green Team for the summer planting, but the weeds continued to grow, and by mid-August, the garden looked like a small overgrown jungle.

That’s when the community stepped in to help. Donovan took to Facebook to recruit extra hands to the project, with several new volunteers coming out for a harvesting event last Thursday, Aug. 22. They included individuals like Brittany Brosnan and her son, Bradyn, who live across the street from the garden but had never made their way over before stumbling across the project online.

“My dude over here loves gardening, so I said, let’s check it out,” said Brosnan.

The half-dozen volunteers made quick work of the garden, returning order to its rows of tomato plants and sweet-smelling oregano. They also harvested some of the summer crop, including tomatoes, onions, beans and oregano, packing it in bags to distribute at the food pantry the following Saturday.

Though the work made a big difference for the small plot, Robinson said he hopes to recruit more volunteers and make a regular schedule for weeding and harvesting. With enough volunteers, he said, the garden could support a fall crop, with vegetables like lettuce, spinach, onions and beets growing well in the colder weather.

“One of the misconceptions that people have is that the gardening season ends in September. But with proper planning, the growing season is year round,” he explained.

Donovan agreed, and said she plans to continue to recruit more volunteers from both towns to help the project along. Gardening’s not for everyone, she admitted, but for those blessed with a green thumb – or who want to learn more about where their food comes from – this one offers a chance to share their skills while giving back to the community.

“I guess it’s like being a priest or something, or a nun,” she said. “Either it calls you or it doesn’t.”

To learn more about the Millville Community Garden or get involved, visit their Facebook page under "Community Garden of Millville, Massachusetts."

Volunteers harvest vegetables from the Millville Community Garden last Thursday. The garden benefits Millville and Blackstone residents.