EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 28, 2013

Community gardens bring people together

Community gardens are about more than planting

By Alex Lippa

---- — Andy Yasment said one of his favorite parts of a community garden is in its name. It’s the community aspect.

“I just love the camaraderie of it,” he said. “It’s the true meaning of the word community.”

Yasment has had a plot at the Derry Community Garden at Broadview Farm for seven years. His plot is known around the garden as the “salsa garden.”

“We are lovers of hot, spicy foods,” he said. “We grow hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers which we put in our salsa.”

In Derry there are more than 40 200-square-foot plots available on a first come, first serve basis.

In Salem, this year’s set of plots were reserved quickly.

“We had 27 plots this year and they were all gone in less than three weeks,” said Joan Blondin, who organizes the garden.

Last year, there were 24 plots available at the space off Town Farm Road.

Blondin likened the interaction between growers there as a family reunion.

“It’s like one big happy family there,” she said. “Everyone knows each other and always asks how each other’s plants are.”

Blondin said the purpose of the garden is for those who may not be able to grow in their own yards.

“Some people just don’t have the space or sunlight to grow,” she said.

That’s the case at Yasment’s home in Derry.

“I’m off of Walnut Hill Road,” he said. “That’s deep in the woods, so, for me, the community garden is a necessity for me.”

Arthur Nobrega of Salem was able to secure a plot this year after several years on the waiting list.

“I like to grow vegetables,” he said. “I figure if I can go somewhere and get some tips it will help out my garden.”

Nobrega said he is growing tomatoes, squash, snap peas and other vegetables in his garden. He will bring some home for his own meals, but already has plans for the leftovers.

“I plan on donating the extras to a local food pantry,” Nobrega said.

Linda Moriarty has been planting in the Salem garden for three years and also has donated what she has grown to food pantries in the past.

“We like to grow as a group,” she said. “We grow everything from corn, spinach, beans and herbs to squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and peas.”

Seeing familiar faces is something that draws Moriarty back to the garden.

“We help each other out with our plants,” she said. “We’ll talk about the best way to keep our weeds down.”

Yasment said everyone is there for the purpose, to grow food and enjoy the company of others doing the same thing.

“It’s not about competition,” he said. “It’s about collaboration.”