School-Based Community Garden in Manchester
As the old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child,” and in the case of the new Parkside Community Garden (PCG), it takes many dedicated organizations and volunteers to raise a community garden. Parkside will be Manchester’s fifth community garden, and the first that is open to both neighbors and school children.
“In 2017, a small group of Parkside neighbors met and pushed for a garden,” noted Mary Tebo Davis, leader of the Parkside effort and Natural Resources Field Specialist. Some neighbors weren’t keen on the garden’s location, so a new spot nearer to Parkside Avenue was chosen. “We had a nice outcome,” Tebo Davis said of the relocation. The new plan included a wood-chipped trail, so Gossler Elementary and Parkside Middle School students could safely walk around the garden and avoid a busy parking lot.
“Volunteers came from all types of organizations, as well as many interested individuals,” Mary continued. “We have an email list of 50 or more people that have been helping with the garden”.
Parkside Middle School neighbor Mary Lizie, who lives within view of the garden, and Parkside Middle School social worker Saidell “Sai” Jimenez, are now the PCG coordinators. “I knew there were community gardens around town,” said Lizie, when she heard of a possible Parkside garden, “and I thought - why not us?” Southern N.H. University, where Lizie works, has a program providing eight hours off for employees who volunteer for a community project. This summer Lizie recruited four employees — Trent Larrabee, Chris Glendening, Neil Santos and Kathleen Callahan — to help with the garden.
Mary Tebo Davis has good memories of watching Parkside Middle School Principal Forrest Ransdell and Assistant Principle Jeffrey Hebert drive around on the Bobcat while working on the wood-chipped trail. “You know you have a committed school when you have the principal and school family working on an outside project.”
Principal Ransdell said that when he was approached about the community garden project, “it was easy to see the benefit in many areas.” Welcoming the community to Gossler and Parkside schools, he said, is important. “Acting as a community resource can be accomplished in many ways, and this is one way.” He saw the “curriculum opportunities as significant” and useful to various groups of teacher and students.
“I think this is such a great idea,” said Parkside social worker and coordinator Jimenez, who has been active at most of the garden workdays. She agreed with her principal about the garden’s value to the schools. Both Gossler and Parkside schools will use some of the garden boxes for science projects.
The community garden idea has even filtered down to some of the Parkside students, especially Mackenzie Verdiner, 13, Parkside’s 8th grade class president. “When I first heard about [the garden],” Mackenzie noted, “I was really excited. It was going to be really good for the school, and good for the kids to get into nature and the community.” She would like to see Parkside turn into a zero waste school, “but it takes time. We need to take small steps towards this goal for the future.”
Two constant Natural Resources Stewards involved in PCG are Ken La Quire and Jan Litvin. Ken has built and continues to maintain the community garden at Manchester Community College, (the city’s third garden). He has been at almost every PCG session, moving dirt, fencing and logs with heavy machinery. He recently built the raised beds with help from permaculture designer Scott Drummey, and Master Gardener Walter Swift, along with two newly minted Stewards Jenn Solms and Kathleen “Kat” Sutton.
Jan Litvin has been dedicated to PCG since its start and designed the final garden plan. Mary Tebo Davis asked for her help on the project after working with her on the Hollows Community Garden where they incorporated permaculture. Jan began by listening to what the neighbors and school wanted in a garden. Among the wishes were varieties of fruit along the fence, so people walking by could pick them (double blooming blueberries have already been planted).
In late October, the garden helpers finished installing nearly half of the 48 raised beds that include ones especially designed for those with physical challenges. Crews also worked to build benches, and repaired the garden shed that was rescued before the demolition of the old Women’s Prison in Goffstown. According to Tebo Davis, “Our goal is for the garden beds to be completed in early spring and ready for planting throughout the 2020 growing season.”
When Pauline volunteered to work at the Parkside Community Garden, she did not realize it was just five blocks from her childhood home. Her grandfather Adelard Pinard built a large rock grotto on Sullivan Street that is still there today. The base of the hill that crested with Sullivan Street was called "the flats" because the bottom was a huge treeless plain. Today that hill is forested, and the flats is in the process of becoming the new Parkside Community Garden!