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"Before I had arrived in Camden, the lot across the street from the church was inhabited by abandoned police sub-stations. I did not have the opportunity to see them, but I had heard they had become vandalized and a haven for drug selling. Fortunately, the church was able to organize and get the city to remove the sub-stations and also received the okay to put in a community garden on the lot. Also, Camden is blessed to have the Camden Children's Garden non-profit that works with communities in setting up local gardens. The lot across from Saint Anthony's soon became the biggest in the city.
When I arrived, I greatly desired to try my hand at gardening and learn a new skill. It seemed like a great opportunity to expand self-sustainability and simple living. I was aided by expertise of Brother Jerry and Martha in the Camden community. Martha took me over to the Children's garden and loaded me up with sprouts, fertilizer, and confidence. Instead of giving me one plot in the garden,,she insisted I take at least three. I soon had over a hundred sprouts,probably closer to two hundred, and my adventure began from there.
Since I started in late August, my first season involved all fall vegetables. I planted romaine, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, and kale. Also, I had cilantro, basil, and dill for herbs. Unfortunately, I experienced the heart break of gardening as beetles devoured my broccoli and kale. But not all was lost and I harvested bags upon bags of greens and herbs over a few months. We learned and tried all sorts of recipes to use up the abundance of swiss chard. For a community prayer, we even once harvested several bags of vegetables and gave them out to our neighbors in need. I was also able to provide Francis house with a salad for lunch regularly.
As great as the garden was doing, all good things must come to an end. A garden must die and rest before spring comes and it can come to life again. My plots and hearty vegetables lasted through a couple frosts, but a couple weeks ago one night was especially cold. The next day I picked some spinach and the stem had started to turn to ice on the inside. We quickly harvested the remaining greens and found out we needed trash bags to fit it all. There must have been fifteen pounds of greens collected on the last day of the season between the spinach and swiss chard. Seeing as two trash bags full of vegetables was a little too much for a dinner salad, I sent it over to Saint Francis Inn. They were able to distribute the vegetables to families in need and provide a great source of vitamins and nutrition.
The first season of gardening produced a wonderful and tasty assortment of life. I am greatly looking forward to the spring and expanding my growing experiences to a wider variety of vegetables. It's exciting to eat and cook with food grown by my own hands and also the ability to share that gift with other communities as well.
• Josh, Camden '09−'10
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