An oasis has sprung up in the midst of one of our nation's food deserts.
On a plot of land next to Jamestown Community College's tennis courts, 20 raised beds have been constructed to house community gardens as part of a sustainability program. The gardens are intended to alleviate some of the problems community members face regarding Second Street's status as a nationally recognized food desert.
"A lot of the people who live on Second Street are more than one mile from a large grocery store," said Shannon Bessette, associate professor of anthropology. "Food deserts often correlate with poverty and a lot of people who are poor don't have access to fresh food, in particular because they don't have access to transportation. One reason we wanted to have the community garden is to give people who live in this area an opportunity to rent a bed for very little cost and be able to grow their own fresh food."
Several community members and organizations gathered together for the opening celebration of Jamestown Community College’s new community gardens.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
The produce from these gardens will not only be used to serve personal needs but will also be donated as part of a giving program.
"Part of it is a giving garden, so we'll be donating fresh produce to St. Susan's Soup Kitchen," said Bessette. "Also, a couple of the beds will be kept for a teaching garden where we'll be growing food that is typical for different ethnic populations that have settled in this region. We're hoping to keep that program school-related but that food will also be donated."
According to Aimee Brunelle, athletic trainer and adjunct faculty in physical education studies, the concept for these gardens has been long in the making.
"Shannon and I have discussed this for probably about eight to 10 years," said Brunelle. "But it wasn't until this past spring that I talked to the Chautauqua County Health Network on our Earth Awareness Day. Their experience with getting this off the ground along with their partnerships with the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and JCC really got this going. It truly is a community project."
The guest speaker for the ceremony was Sarah Hatfield, naturalist and intern coordinator at the Jamestown Audubon Society.
"Food is the one thing across the entire globe that we all have in common," said Hatfield. "We all need to eat. Our connection to food is what built communities. While families tended to their own kitchen garden, rarely was it possible for one family's labor to bring in all the fodder for the livestock. So families all came together to work on everybody's farm, to get all of the products in, to get everybody taken care of for the winter. Food formed communities. It was that powerful."
Also in attendance was JCC President Greg DeCinque, who spoke briefly about his past experience with community gardens and the value of having them on JCC's campus.
"This is just one more thing that JCC does to support our sustainability efforts and demonstrate that we're good citizens," said DeCinque. "So much thanks to the BOCES students and others who participated in building these beds and I hope that eventually they multiply."
The gardens' construction was also made possible through the efforts of the Food Security Task Force and JCC's Social Activism and Earth Awareness clubs. The JCC Community Gardens sign was provided by Peter Lombardi and the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation.
Installation of a water source and fencing is planned for next spring. There are also plans to have 20 additional beds built.