A garden grows at Robinson Gardens Apartments
It’s more than a garden in the sun-drenched area surrounded by apartments at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens.
A whole lot more.
Sure, there are boxes filled with lush, thriving basil, zinnia and summer squash. And in the ground, there are tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cilantro, oregano, watermelon, and more.
But there’s also a dedicated group of residents, the ‘Robinson Gardens Community Gardens Committee,’ that keep the new oasis watered, free of weeds, and most importantly, a spot where neighbors meet, converse, and frequently pitch in to help out.
“Everybody can get involved, and they can see this growing right in their back yard, so they do get involved,” said resident Ivette Fernandez, who is coordinator of the committee.
“We’re using this to promote family engagement,” she added. “This is something for all ages, and anyone who likes to grow their own natural food. It’s healthy. It’s fun. It’s educational.”
With Fernandez at the head, there are even newsletters and a Facebook page to keep residents informed about the garden, as well as upcoming events and items of interest to residents.
Fernandez is a gardener in her own right, known at Robinson Gardens for her doorstep decorations that reflect seasonal themes. She also has a small garden of her own behind her apartment, where tomatoes, herbs, squash and flowers thrive.
By her side in the community garden endeavor is Petra Menger, also an owner of a green thumb. She is often found in the center yard, watering, weeding or harvesting the fruits of the labors of many. Goodness from the garden is given to any residents who want to take the ripened vegetables, fruits and herbs.
“We’ve been working on this since the beginning, in June,” said Menger. “We helped dig the dirt and make the raised beds. Next year, we’re talking about a fence to go around it.”
Like Fernandez, Menger loves growing things from seeds and plants.
“I love gardening. I love fresh vegetables, and when I grow them myself, I know exactly where they came from,” Menger said.
Both Fernandez and Menger have two young children.
The garden came to be thanks to donations from the Springfield Housing Authority, Harvest Farm of South Deerfield, and city resident Wilfredo Reyes. The Food Policy Council of Springfield has also been involved, helping to organize the committee of residents and offering ideas and tips to make the garden successful.
Offering daily help is Lynne Cimino, outreach coordinator for Talk/Read/Succeed!, the family-based literacy program running at Robinson Gardens and Sullivan Apartments.
Cimino said the community garden is a perfect fit for a family development with a focus on community, good health, and literacy.
“It is certainly building a stronger community here at Robinson Gardens,” Cimino said.
“People see us out there and they want to help. They want to see what we’re doing, and ask how they can be a part of it. It’s a great way to engage the residents,” she said.
As the garden ripens, Fernandez and Menger are thinking about what to plant next year, and how to make the experience even stronger and better.
“We’ll definitely be back,” Fernandez said. “Bigger and better than ever.”
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