Community Gardens Soon to Grow in Keene

Five community gardens will grow in Keene over the next eighteen months, as Antioch University New England (AUNE) partners with the Keene community to strengthen food security in the region.

Each of the five sites, to be centrally located in the city, is expected to have four 48-square-foot gardens. Social-service organizations may host garden sites and incorporate the gardens into their programming, or citizen groups may apply to start gardens in a vacant lot or on a piece of public land. Each collaborating agency will receive more than $2,000 in gardening supplies and educational support throughout the grant cycle. The deadline to apply to be a host agency for a site is February 11.

Keene Community Gardens Connections (CGC), comprising AUNE Environmental Studies faculty and students, and community organizations and members, is organizing the initiative, with the help of a private donation of $25,000 from the Rashti Foundation. The project will take the model of AUNE’s campus garden, started in 2009, into the larger community. One of its main goals is to help local residents grow healthy and affordable food and provide education on such topics as composting and cooking and preserving fresh food. Eventually there may be a research and education center for AUNE faculty and students to work in the areas of agriculture, restoration and sustainability.

Two graduate students in the Environmental Studies Department will serve as coordinators for each site to help get the gardens under way. In addition, Garden Connections workshops are planned for March 12 and April 30 to teach participants about the project, and a community-wide Harvest Fest and Community Sharing will wind up the project.

But that won’t be the end of the gardens, which will continue and, ideally, be replicated across Keene, said Libby McCann, AUNE’s environmental education director and an advisor to CGC.

“We’re working toward building community members’ capacity to grow their own foodâ€especially among those with the least access to healthy food and a healthy environment,” McCann said. “It’s exciting to build upon our long-standing partnerships in food systems and agriculture in the Monadnock region.”

For more information on applying to be a host agency, contact Robin Colt at rcolt@antioch.edu or phone 603.568.2694.