Community gardeners prepare beds

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PARIS — Oxford County community gardeners gathered Saturday on Park Street to prepare raised beds for the growing season.

Gardeners Growing Healthy Communities, a volunteer-based nonprofit, began three years ago and has since been providing fresh vegetables to the community.

The garden is on land owned by the Oxford Hills Law firm. Partner Linda Russell offered the space to the group, which benefits the community and the firm, according to Phoebe Call, past president of the gardeners group.

The gardeners have a space to grow and the law office gets a beautiful landscape every year, Call said.

The garden comprises 32 large, raised beds, and a small grove of blueberry bushes. This year, Call said, the group will plant less of a variety of vegetables and focus on the favorites, such as carrots, cabbage, melons and cherry tomatoes.

The space has a cold storage shed and a compost pile, and all of the beds are irrigated, with black tubes running along every bed. The tubes have tiny holes throughout, and a timer controls a steady watering schedule for the plants.

This year, the gardeners plan to also have an herb garden and more flowers to brighten up the area.

In mid to late July, when the vegetables are ready to be harvested, a weekly distribution takes place at the First Congregational Church in Paris on Thursday nights, Call said.

“We have some people who have come for years,” she said. “They stand in line and get a random number. We don’t ask for any income verification, just anyone who has a need.”

Distribution nights are one reason Jan Cardoza of Norway volunteers in the garden.

“It’s really nice getting together with people, and it’s great on distribution day,” Cardoza said. “All those people are so happy, it’s like one big, giant family.” 

Seeing the final product is the favorite thing for volunteer Chris Olson of Bethel.

“It’s great to see things grow, but definitely eating them is the best,” Olson said.

As important as the organization is to vegetable lovers, President Ken Ward said it’s a challenge to find people who have the interest and the time to volunteer.

The next workday for the group is Saturday, May 19, from 9 a.m to noon. The garden is at 197 Park Street, next to Oxford Hills Law.

“Everyone is welcome,” Call said. “Bring gloves!”

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Linda Hooker of Oxford, left, and Stella Shaw of Albany Township attended the first workday of the Gardeners Growing Healthy Communities organization in Paris on Saturday.  (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

Gary Olson of Bethel clears away dead grass from the raised beds at the Gardeners Growing Healthy Communities first workday of the year in Paris on Saturday. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal) 

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