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Chester County Press

Community garden proposed for Kennett Square

08/07/2013 10:38AM ● By Acl

The seeds for a community garden are being planted in Kennett Square.

CATA, a migrant farm workers organization, is proposing to start a community garden in Kennett Square that would give low-income families in the area access to fresh foods.

At the Kennett Square Borough Council meeting on Monday night, Rachel Winograd, the food justice coordinator for CATA, made a presentation about how the community would benefit from the garden, which she hopes will be located at Kennett Square’s Public Works facility.

“People who work hard should be able to eat well, and this does not always happen in low-income families,” Winograd said. “We are working toward a more fair food system. Food is a human right and families need to have access to fresh and healthy food.”

She pointed out that in the U.S. there is an unfortunate irony—“the people who grow food in this country have the least access to fresh food.”

Winograd said that the community garden program fits CATA’s mission of food justice. CATA was founded in New Jersey in 1979 as a migrant farmworkers association. CATA currently works throughout the southern part of New Jersey and has offices in the New Jersey communities of Bridgeton and Glassboro, as well as Salisbury, Md., and Kennett Square. CATA has been active in Kennett Square since the early 1990s. The organization works with migrant farm workers by doing trainings and leadership development, providing support for problems at work, and advocating on the migrant workers’ behalf.

She explained to borough council that CATA started a community garden in Bridgeton, New Jersey in August of 2012 and those community gardeners are seeing the fruits of their labor right now.

“At this point it’s flourishing,” Winograd said. “It’s running itself because there are so many people involved.”

According to Winograd, the community garden has numerous benefits in addition to giving more people access to fresh and organic food. The community garden promotes healthy lifestyles, facilitates friendly interaction among members of the community, and it can be used as a way to teach a new generation about organic and sustainable agriculture.

The ingredients to a successful community garden, Winograd said, are participation, organization, production, and a feeling of ownership. She believes that all those ingredients will be present in Kennett Square if the project is approved.

Borough council president Dan Maffei said that the proposal came at a good time because borough officials have been working on a plan for the Public Works property that is near the intersection of South Street and South Washington Street.

Maffei, who owns Maffei Landscape Design, worked with Chris Stejskal, a recent University of Delaware graduate, on creating a landscape concept plan for the site. There is room for a community garden on the site.

“If we didn’t put {the land} to productive use, we’d just be mowing it,” said Maffei. “The costs of developing the community garden would be on CATA. We would simply be providing them the space for the garden.”

Council members spoke in favor of the community garden.

“Being able to combine a couple of uses on one site makes a lot of sense,” said council member Geoff Bosley.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do,” said Leon Spencer.

“I’m one hundred percent supportive,” said Mayor Matt Fetick.

Maffei said that some of the details will have to be worked out regarding some of the expenses, but once an agreement is in place it’s possible that CATA could start preparing the land for next year’s crops.

Winograd said that she would expect that tomatoes, peppers, squash, and lettuce, among other crops, would be grown in the garden.

She said that she anticipates a lot of interest in the garden because the farm workers in the area come from a culture where they do a lot of cooking from scratch and they like to have fresh ingredients.

“Our membership doesn’t eat a lot of fast food or frozen dinners,” Winograd said. “They appreciate gardening and fresh vegetables.”

Mary Hutchins, the executive director of Historic Kennett Square, told borough council that the organization has entered into an agreement with Chuck DuPree to conduct a market study in preparation for a strategic economic development plan. The borough last completed an economic development plan about five or six years ago, but that one focused on the central business district. The new market study will look at the other commercial areas in town. Part of the market study, Hutchins said, will be to identify businesses that might be complementary to existing shops as well as an evaluation of what kinds of businesses the town is lacking.