Community Gardens are assets that bring not only fresh food but a much-needed sense of community. In addition to the River Roots Community Farm in Foxburg (update below), there are other community gardens in the area.
About twelve years ago, a group of church members at First Presbyterian Church in Oil City were interested in finding a way to use the sunny church lawn to serve the community. A group of volunteers fenced in an area, built 35 raised beds, and began advertising garden spaces for rent. The first summer, about 75% of the beds were rented by church members, and 25% by non-parishoners. Over the years, that ratio has reversed, showing that the church is meeting its goal of being of service to the community. Some of the gardeners also share excess produce with the Salvation Army or St. Elizabeth Center. (There are still beds available! If interested, contact the First Presbyterian Church at 814-676-2769.)
The Oil City Rotary Club also maintains two community gardens. All of the work is done by Rotary members, and the produce is donated to help people in need. Local organizations like the Salvation Army, the Open Door Cafe, and the Emmaus Haven of Venango take the produce and use it to make meals to serve the community.
Down-river, at River Roots Community Farm, Coordinator, Jeremy Layburn and volunteers have been busy planting, weeding, and otherwise tending the beds. Most of the plants have taken off and are starting to yield ripe fruit. There will soon be an abundance of cherry, Roma, and beefsteak tomatoes plus squash and peas to accompany the herbs that have been harvestable since spring. Now, a couple of the beds are being prepped to have fall crops put in. The produce at River Roots Community Farm is available to anyone who would like to have some. Feel free to carefully lift the deer fence and harvest what you need, but please leave the plants.
In addition to the typical vegetable garden items, Jeremy has been seeking out native flowers and collecting seeds when possible to build a native plants library at the farm. He has a list of native species that he’d like to have like red Monarda or “Scarlett Beebalm” and “Cardinal Flower”, and slowly but surely, he’s checking off his list. He also installed gutters on the shed that run into a rainwater catchment to provide water during drier periods.
River Roots Community Farm is looking for help from community members with donations of materials, like straw bales or landscape timbers to improve the beds, or by volunteering to help with planting days, watering and weeding, or plant and wildlife management. If you would like to contribute in any way, please reach out to Jeremy at 724-996-5905 (text or leave a message). You can also join our email list by visiting riverroots redevelopment.org to be notified of needs as they come up.
As always, we’ll be in Foxburg on Friday from 1-3 pm. Weather pending, we will start out at Divani then move up the hill for the last half hour at River Roots Community Farm located at A-C Valley School District. Hope to see you out there!
Rachel Brosnahan is the Community Engagement Coordinator for River Roots Redevelopment. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org