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Church community garden reaps what it sows

By Joanne Beck
Girl with veggies

Sometimes you might wonder if all the grunt work of digging, planting, watering and weeding is worth it for some seasonal vegetables. 

Well folks at Emmanuel Baptist Church know the answer at their community garden. It’s a resounding yes.

“We have zucchini coming up, and also tomatoes, peppers, radishes, herbs, beans, and much more!,” Rev. Tom Tharp said Tuesday, sending photos as proof of the bounty. “The planters are full and flourishing!”

Emmanuel garden in Batavia

The property in back of the Oak Street church had a much different, albeit promising, look, with rows of empty wooden boxes awaiting their soil and seedlings at the end of May.

Tom Thorp in May

Tharp was busily mixing coconut chips and water with soil to deposit into the boxes for what he was hoping would be a rich harvest just a few months later. 

The church membership initially built a community garden to help feed homeless people that were being housed in nearby hotels, before those places were shut down. 

But then, as Tharp explained in May, “we still thought that there was a need, that the community is nearby the neighborhood, especially down Gateway, Noonan, Oak Street, that people might want to partake of growing their own food, and we might meet some of the additional costs that are coming up, over and over, at the grocery stores.”

A grant and donations of goods and volunteer time made it possible to purchase or otherwise have 20 garden plots, soil for planting, a 1,000-gallon water tank, donated by Norton Dairy, assorted vegetable seeds, and tools for people to use. 

Tharp then put the word out that plots were available for purchase to those that weren’t able to fill a garden plot themselves. Anyone, even with the slightest bit of green thumb, was invited to participate. 

And now they’re reaping the fruits — or veggies — of their labor. 

Emmanuel garden
Emmanuel community garden

Nine garden plots await interested green thumbs at Emmanuel's community garden

By Joanne Beck
Tom tharp planting in community garden
The Rev. Tom Tharp planting roma tomato plants in the community garden at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Batavia. Photo by Joanne Beck.

As Memorial Day weekend was creeping closer on Friday, Rev. Tom Tharp was already getting his fill of fresh air and sunshine.

No, he wasn’t prepping the grill for a weekend barbecue or mowing the grass to host picnic guests. Rather, Tharp, leader of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Batavia, was up to his elbows in coconut chips, mixing them with water to combine with soil for garden plots behind the Oak Street church.

What prompted the church to build its own community garden?
“We were building it because they were housing all of the homeless population in the town of these two hotels over here. But then that didn't really work out. The hotels were condemned and shut down … but we still thought that there was a need, that the community is nearby the neighborhood, especially down Gateway, Noonan, etc., Oak Street, that people might want to partake of growing their own food,” Tharp said. “And we might meet some of the additional costs that are coming up, over and over, at the grocery stores. It's not like we can provide eggs, though. But the good thing, the price of those has gone down.”

emmanuel garden
Rev. Tom Tharp dispenses water from a 1,000 gallon water tank at the garden to mix with coconut chips. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Thanks to a grant and donations of goods and volunteer time, there are 20 garden plots, soil for planting, a 1,000-gallon water tank, donated by Norton Dairy, assorted vegetable seeds, and tools for people to use. The garden is protected by a locked fence, and anyone who buys a plot will receive a key for 24/7 access.

There wasn’t going to be a charge for those that filled a garden plot themselves. However, no one showed up Friday to do that, Tharp said, so he was spending his Friday filling the boxes and testing his own green thumb abilities (he claimed not to have any) by putting in roma tomato plants for a couple of his wife’s plots.

Tom Tharp with community garden
Photo by Joanne Beck.

People have so far reserved 11 plots, which means that nine remain available for purchase. They are $20 each. Everything is included, such as seeds for tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peas, different kinds of peppers and other veggies, water, soil and a periodic lesson on gardening how-tos.

“At least you'd be able to get enough for a family, if you have the means of, you know, freezing the stuff and then keeping it for a while. I am not a natural gardener. So I don't know exactly how much we'll get out of this," he said. "We have some people from the church coming out who are going to be planting, and some people in the church who are just donating plants from their gardens to put in. And if we have stuff that doesn't get used, it will go to a local food pantry."

emmanuel comunity garden plots
Photo by Joanne Beck.

There’s certainly plenty of space for the garden, with about six acres behind the church. Parishioners — church membership is about 45 people — at one point wanted to revamp the softball field so they could begin a softball league during COVID.

The church received a grant, and there was interest, but, because it was COVID — they couldn’t get any contractors to do the work, Tharp said. So they had to return the grant and moved on to another project. “It would have been nice,” he said. “We’ve got the space, and we want to use it.”

For now, though, there is the community garden, and anyone may participate.

“If you have even the slightest bit of green thumb, you can come out and pretty much grow your own vegetables for free here,” Tharp said. "We've got everything that you need to get started. And we'd love to have you."

 For more information, or to reserve your plot, call 585-343-4905.

Avid gardeners wanted for Emmanuel Baptist's community garden, debuts Friday

By Joanne Beck
emmanuel baptist church batavia
Emmanuel Baptist Church in Batavia, from church website.
There are several plots available at the Emmanuel Baptist Church Community Garden, Rev. Tom Tharp says. 
"Our 20-plot project has been fully built and is ready to be planted," Tharp said. "We can't wait to see the plants coming up! The garden still has several plots available for erstwhile gardeners.  Come out Friday, May 26 from 10-2 to fill your plot, get a key, and plant your first seeds of the season."
Those enthusiastic green thumbs who come out and fill up their own plots will get the space free for the season, he said. 
Check out the garden from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 190 Oak St., Batavia.
 For more information, or to reserve your plot, call 585-343-4905.

GC Master Gardeners invite you to hear about Community Garden history

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee County Master Gardeners invite you to a free presentation on the “History of the Batavia Community Garden,” Monday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. The program will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St., Batavia, NY.

The Batavia Community Garden opened for its first season in the summer of 2013. Its goal was to provide city residents with space to grow fresh produce in community with other gardeners. Just as the garden’s number of plots has grown, so too has the garden’s service area. In 2022 all residents of Genesee County became eligible to rent a garden bed. It’s been 10 wonderful years of growing our garden and our community! Join us for this free program.

For more information please contact CCE Genesee County, (585) 343-3040, ext. 101, stop by the CCE office at 420 E. Main St. in Batavia or visit the website.

Emmanuel Baptist Church announces new community garden

By Press Release

Press release:

Calling all green thumbs and community builders! Emmanuel Baptist Church is seeking volunteers to help build and farm our brand-new community garden in the field behind the church at 190 Oak Street in Batavia.

Our garden will feature 20 spacious 4x3 plots, which, once constructed and fenced, will be transformed into thriving vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens. We may add larger plots if there is a desire for them. But we can't do it alone - we need your help to build garden beds, plant seeds, tend to plants, and harvest the fruits of your labor. (Each person who signs up for a plot gets to plant, maintain and harvest from their own plot!) If you help build the garden, you get to farm a plot for free for a season. Otherwise they will be 20 dollars a plot.

Being a gardener at our community garden is more than just a chance to get your hands dirty. It's an opportunity to connect with fellow garden enthusiasts, learn new skills, and contribute to a project that will benefit the entire community.

Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a complete beginner, you can grow veggies or flowers and grow yourself as well! Our team will provide all the necessary tools and seeds. There will be water barrels with watering cans available as well. So if you're looking for a place to get your garden growing while enjoying the great outdoors, come join us at Emmanuel Baptist Church's Community Garden. Together, we can create something truly special.

There will be an informational meeting held Wednesday, March 29th at Emmanuel Baptist Church at 6 p.m. for those interested in helping or renting a plot. For more information or to volunteer, please call 585 343 4905 or email [email protected]

Plots available for rental in Batavia Community Garden

By Press Release


Press release:

Would you love to grow nutritious, great-tasting vegetables but don’t have space for a garden?  The Batavia Community Garden can help!

The Batavia Community Garden is currently accepting applications for raised bed rentals.  Garden plots are offered in three sizes: 4’ x 4’ ($20), 4’ x 8’ ($30) and 2’ x 10’ ($25) trough plots for gardeners with limited range of motion.  All plots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Plot rentals are available to anyone living in Genesee County.  All fees are non-refundable.  The garden is located next to 12 MacArthur Drive.  The Batavia Community Garden is currently managed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County.

New gardeners (with little or no gardening experience) shall be limited to one 4’ x 4’ plot rental.  Gardeners with gardening experience can rent up to two 4’ x 4’ plots or one 4’ x 8’ plot.  Elevated trough beds (for adaptive gardening needs) are limited to one bed per gardener if available.  Potential gardeners should review the Batavia Community Garden Rules and Information prior to applying.

Plot fees include access to a raised bed filled with a growing soil mix, access to a water source with a hose, watering wand, and watering cans; use of provided hand tools; use of compost bin and other resources at the garden.

Plot requests are filled according to the order in which applications are received.  A check or money order must be included with the application.  Payments of cash can be made at the CCE Genesee office during business hours at 420 E Main St, Batavia, NY 14020.

For more information please contact Mandy McCauley at CCE Genesee County, (585) 343-3040, ext. 101, stop by the CCE office at 420 East Main Street in Batavia or visit the website

Photo: File Photo from 2016 by Howard Owens

Art and nature come together for a project in full bloom

By Joanne Beck


It may come as no surprise that the Community Garden in Batavia is filled with colorful flowers, vegetables and foliage.

That scenery, however, is a flow of artistry painted on each side of five panels displayed at the garden on MacArthur Drive. At 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide, the panels complement the 50 or so plots of land — dotted with colorful flowers and vegetables — being tended to by local residents and organizations.

Artist David Burke of Bergen was commissioned to do the paintings. He is pleased with the outcome and hopes that the public will visit the garden area to see them.

“I just wish I started doing what I'm doing 30 years ago or more, but just the last six, seven years I had a little more free time. I was homeschooling our kids for a while two years ago so I was just always kind of busy, but I just realized I loved painting,” Burke said during an interview at the garden. “And so about seven years ago I just got to do way more of it, and the more I do it, the better I get, and the more I enjoy it.”


Community Garden folks had planned — twice, actually — for an unveiling celebration at the site, however, Mother Nature, as she’s known to do on occasion, had other plans. Rain and wind forced organizers to postpone each unveiling, including a week ago. Jocelyn Sikorski, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, said that perhaps it will be moved to next spring.

In the meantime, spectators can view the artwork from the park side and the high school side. The project was grant-funded and the original idea was “to bring some art up to the garden,” garden committee secretary Richard Beatty said.


Beatty worked on the state grant application for $5,000, which was awarded through Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council in December 2021. The money was used for the purchase of materials and to hire Burke — through a committee application process — for 10 panels. They were going to be individual hangings, but discussions about strong winds and how to best place them resulted in five panels, with one mural on each side of tall wooden backboards just inside the southern fence.

The artwork took Burke about two and a half weeks to complete, beginning with one and then working his way down the line so that all 10 were a cohesive mural, as originally planned. A member of GO Art! and artist for both indoor and outside works at the East Main Street site, Bergen Library and Grass Roots, Burke’s muse was often nature — “we did a lot of landscaping and gardening” — he said about himself and his wife.


He recalled having done his first oil painting at 10, and that it was so much fun. As he grew older, though, it became more of an “off and on” thing, the 66-year-old said.

Burke has more recently gotten into abstract expressionism versus what’s in the garden: very large, colorful, unmistakable creations of nature. He wishes that he had taken more art classes at Genesee Community College, where he attended in the mid-70s, he said.

“I just really, really enjoy the tactile physical act of painting,” he said.


Working out the concerns of wind wreaking a little havoc with the artwork, and transfer of the garden from the city to Genesee County’s Cooperative Extension took a little time, Beatty said, but garden committee members are happy with the final layout.

“I think everything turned out very well. They look great,” he said. David is set up so that … they're a nice theme on both sides. So this year, you know, we'll see one side and next year we'll see the other side, and having a vantage point for the folks up at the ballgame.”

The painted panels are situated between a chainlink fence and an audience of pumpkins, vivid pink zinnias and cornstalks. Gardeners are planning to augment those with sunflowers next year, Beatty said.


Committee member and Master Gardener RaeAnn Engler appreciates the grassroots type of project the murals have become.

“The gardeners get to see it and it's colorful and it's cheerful, and I guess that's it. It just accentuates the garden, and in what we're doing here, and it's a mix of vegetables and flowers, and color. The garden itself is to see it when we first plant it is so it's so neat to watch it develop,” committee Engler said. “So far we've got corn growing in front of the panels, which are kind of, one could say they're blocking it, but others say it's accentuating it. It's just really neat how integrated it is.”

The city of Batavia was the original recipient of the grant since the garden was still under city ownership in 2021, however, earlier this year City Council voted to transfer the garden over to Cooperative Extension since it seemed more aligned with the Extension’s goals and Master Gardener program. That transfer has also opened up the garden and board memberships to anyone from Genesee County.

The Community Garden is “a very inexpensive proposition,” Beatty said, listing the prices for three different options ranging from $25 to $35.

“There's full water service. We have a whole bunch of master gardeners that are available for consultation for bugs and the various things that afflict one's garden. So the garden itself is great,” he said. “I have to admit, I was a little dubious of the whole artwork thing, but boy, it looks terrific. It really, really does.”

“A nice plus is to give David some more work … it helps an artist continue to be an artist,” Beatty said. “Sure, that's very important.”



Photos: Artist David Burke of Bergen shows the artwork he painted for the Community Garden in Batavia. The garden is on MacArthur Drive, next to the tennis courts behind Batavia High School. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Community Garden tours available Aug. 31

By Howard B. Owens

Fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers abound right now at the City of Batavia Community Garden. In its ninth year of operation, the garden started small and has expanded each year and now has almost 50 beds available for lease.

If you’d like to learn more about it and see it first hand, the Garden Advisory Board and current gardeners are hosting an open house to take you on a tour.

Join us on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, any time between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

Event Date and Time

Community Garden tours available Aug. 31

By Press Release

Press release:

Fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers abound right now at the City of Batavia Community Garden. In its ninth year of operation, the garden started small and has expanded each year and now has almost 50 beds available for lease.

If you’d like to learn more about it and see it first hand, the Garden Advisory Board and current gardeners are hosting an open house to take you on a tour.

Join us on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, any time between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

There are currently plans to expand the garden next year. There will likely be plenty of ready-to-plant raised beds available for lease at a reasonable cost. 

Master Gardeners are on hand to assist with gardening tips and tricks and pest management. Gardeners are expected to help maintain common areas if they can.

Join our Facebook page or visit the City of Batavia website for further information.

Little Free Pantry: volunteers needed Saturday to finish planting garden to use for Summer outreach projects

By Press Release


Submitted photo and press release:

Call-To-Action: The Little Free Pantry is looking for people to lend a hand to finish planting the community garden at Ryan’s Rose Organic Farm, and to visit our by-donation Plant Sale to help fund our Spring outreach projects.

The harvest will be used to supply the Pantry with farm-to-pantry produce all summer long.

Special thanks to the volunteers who helped plant last week, a lot got accomplished. We still have some things that need to get into the soil at the Farm.

Come join us to get the remaining crops, seeds, and baby pumpkins planted, and check out our Plant Sale, offering baby sunflowers, veggie plants, and flowering plants. Donations of plants are welcome and appreciated.

The event is happening at the Ryan's Rose Organic Farm, 3417 Rose Road, Batavia, on Saturday, May 29th. Two sessions are planned, 10 a.m. till 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 till 5 p.m.

Let us know you are coming by registering at, or at #littlefreepantry#spring2021#volunteersneeded.

Subscribe to our Newsletter to hear about:

  • Good news about neighbors helping neighbors;
  • Events and happenings;
  • Opportunities to chip in;
  • Finding a helping hand when you need one.

Little Free Pantry -- leave what you can, take what you need.

Little Free Pantry needs volunteers to help grow food in a community garden

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The Little Free Pantry could use your help in our fight against food insecurity in our neighborhoods! Once again, we will be planting a community garden to grow farm fresh produce for the Little Free Pantry in Batavia this summer.

Thanks to the generosity of Tom Ryan of Ryan's Rose Organic Farm and Blue Pearl Yoga, we have a plot the size of a football field to grow nutritious veggies to help ease food insecurity in our neighborhoods.

Please consider joining us for the Big Planting on Sunday, May 23 (Rain Date: Sunday, May 30) and help us plant the seeds and plants that will turn into free farm fresh organic produce for those in need in our community this summer.

The organic farm and community garden plot is located at 3417 Rose Road in Batavia.

We have two time slots available: 10 a.m. to noon, or 3 to 5 p.m. We hope to see you there! 

The Pantry will also be hosting a plant sale and open house at the Farm on May 23 (Rain Date: May 30) from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Donations of plants welcome and can be dropped off at 124 State St. prior to sale, or bring them with you to the Plant Sale at the Farm.

To register to volunteer, and for more information: or #littlefreepantry#spring2021#volunteersneeded

Community Garden expands, adapts to changes in leadership and Youth Bureau

By Lauren Leone


The Batavia Community Garden, located at 12 MacArthur Drive next to the Batavia Youth Bureau, is expanding and being reorganized as the Youth Bureau transitions to its new St. Anthony’s at City Church location on Liberty Street.

The Community Garden recently removed its south fence and added a 4,400-square-foot expansion. The extended gardening space allowed for four 4’ x 4’ and four 4’ x 8’ raised beds to be constructed and placed in the garden by volunteers during the United Way Day of Caring in May.

The addition of a 12’ x 16’ wooden pergola is underway and will be completed during the 2020 growing season. The shaded pergola will serve as a community social meeting area within the garden to supplement the existing shaded resting spot.

The Community Garden Advisory Board is also facing changes to its leadership due to vacant positions. These were created when City Manager Martin Moore learned that two volunteer advisory board members, Bob Gray and Carol Boshart, were not city residents as required by a provision in the city charter.

This resulted in the reappointment of those members as non-voting special liaisons to the board. The reassignment caused frustration among board members due to a proposed change to city municipal code that relaxes residency requirements for city employees.

At the June 24 City Council meeting, council members were welcome to a review of the charter in order to reconcile the issue with the advisory board.

“They discussed it and why they had to enforce it. It was a city charter versus a municipal code. But, I’m still here — being a master gardener is a passion,” Bob Gray said.

Gray cofounded the garden in 2011 and served as the former secretary before his Stafford residency caused him to become a non-voting liaison.

“They’ve been very supportive," Gray said of the city, despite his reappointment. "Whenever we need anything, we just shoot them an email and it gets tended to.”

The City of Batavia supports the garden through maintenance work and funding.

Jocelyn Sikorski, Youth Bureau director and Community Garden coordinator, acts as a liaison between the city and the garden. She said that the reorganization of board members has presented some challenges that the board is working to overcome.

“[The special liaisons] were part of the group that started this," Sikorski said. "So, they really are invested and they care about it overall. Those are the people that we want at the table, and I don’t have city residents banging down my door to fill those two vacant spots."

Sikorski recognized that there will be further changes for the Community Garden as the Youth Bureau relocates to its new 114 Liberty St., Batavia, home. The Youth Bureau will continue to collaborate with the garden although the Batavia City School District will occupy its former facility.

“We will probably establish a different type of Youth Garden at St. Anthony’s starting next year," Sikorski said. "We will keep bringing the kids over throughout the end of the summer and into the fall to maintain these beds once we have relocated and close our doors here.”

In the midst of these changes, the garden's community outreach continues. Throughout the season, surplus produce and cut flowers are donated to benefit individuals at Washington Towers and Crossroads House.

“A lot of cities our size don’t have community gardens," Gray said. "This is an asset.”

Photo by Lauren Leone.

Batavia Community Garden opens for the season at 10 a.m. on Saturday

By Billie Owens


Jacob Rosenbeck, age 7, (also in photo at bottom) and Carolyn Pratt are painting the boards that will replace a number of the beds at the community garden. Jacob has been helping at the Garden and growing vegetables there since age 2.

Submitted photos and press release:

Gardeners and volunteers will be busy this week preparing the Batavia Community Garden for Opening Day. Join us at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 19 at the garden, located in MacArthur Park in the City of Batavia (252B State St.).

There are plenty of beds and you could lease one on the spot. Not only that, there will be several Master Gardeners on hand to assist you with getting started growing your own vegetables. We use the squarefoot gardening method to plan out 4’ x 4’ ($15) and 4’x 8’ ($25) raised beds. The lease fee is for the season and the bed is filled and ready for planting on opening day.

If you want a sneak peek, take a stroll through MacArthur Park. Parking is available adjacent to the youth center. You will notice raspberries growing along the perimeter fence. Our garden shed, courtesy of Batavia Rotary houses all of our tools, books and all natural pest control remedies.

You will see a great deal of activity on Wednesday, May 16, as the garden is a United Way Day of Caring Work Site. Thirteeen of the raised beds will be replaced that day and filled with a quality, all natural growing mix. These new beds will be deeper and allow for more versatility in what can be planted. For example, carrots and beets should do nicely.

Throughout the season surplus produce is donated, in fact one or two beds will be designated exclusively for this purpose. Garden volunteers tend to donation beds and also cultivate cutting flowers for donation. Washington Towers and Crossroads House have been the primary beneficiaries, but this year the advisory board hopes to increase the reach of donations.

For more information contact the City of Batavia Youth Bureau, 12 MacArthur Drive; Phone: 345-6420.


Photos: Community Garden open house

By Howard B. Owens


Volunteers who help keep the Batavia Community Garden going, located behind the Youth Bureau off of State Street, held an open house this morning.

Pictured are Dave Graney, Louis Leone, Debbie Rosenbeck and Bob Gray.

There are only nine plots left for this growing season. 

Lease prices range from $15 to $25, depending on the size of the plot. 

For more information and an application form, visit the Youth Bureau.






City of Batavia Community Garden to hold Open House June 4

By Billie Owens

Press release:

An open house is being held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 4th, to showcase the City of Batavia Community Garden.

Make your way to 12 MacArther Drive, just behind the Youth Center and see how the old wading pool has been transformed. The garden is a collaborative effort between Leadership Genesee's Class of 2011, the City Youth Bureau and Cooperative Extension's Master Gardeners.

It is a perfect option if you lack space, or just want a plot ready for planting that comes with expert support. There are plenty of beds still available at $15 for a 4 by 4 or $25 for a 4 by 8 foot plot for the 2016 growing season.

Join us on June 4 or contact the Youth Bureau at 345-6420 for more information, or visit our Facebook page for more information.

Photo: Community Garden open house

By Howard B. Owens


The Burke family were among the local residents who came out this morning for the community garden open house at the Batavia Youth Bureau. Master Gardener Bob Gray explained how the program worked. The Burkes are Scott, Jennifer, Lilyana and Noah. Denise Young also helped with the open house.

Open house at community garden scheduled for Saturday

By Howard B. Owens


City residents are invited to an open house at the Community Garden from 9 to 11 a.m., Saturday, 10 MacAruthur Drive (behind the Batavia Youth Center, the former wading pool).

Residents can meet the garden staff and learn about square-foot gardening, which provides a way for people looking for locally, grown fresh fruits and vegetables to grow their own in a way that is easier than digging up a plot of land.

There are more than two dozen beds available for residents to rent and applications can be obtained by calling the Youth Bureau at (585) 345-6420. Prices range from $15 for a 4'x4' plot up to $35 for the one 4' x 12' plot.

Plants that might be grown include tomato, green peppers, winter squash, eggplant, cucumber, green beans, basil, parsley and beets.

A gardner could wind up with more than 50 pounds of produce out of a 4' x 4' box.

The gardner provides the seeds or sprouts, waters and cares for his or her own box and brings his or her own tools.

Pictured: Master Gardner Bob Gray.

City of Batavia Community Garden Open House is May 10

By Billie Owens

The City of Batavia Community Garden is hosting an Open House on from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 10, at 10 MacArthur Drive (behind the Batavia Youth Center).

This a great opportunity for City of Batavia residents to view how a vacant wading pool has been made into the new “City of Batavia Community Garden.” Meet with the garden’s staff and learn more about the efficient “Square Foot Gardening Method.”

There will be refreshments and gardening demonstrations.

For questions or more information contact the Youth Bureau at 345-6420.

Community garden project at Youth Bureau expanding this spring

By Howard B. Owens

With the approval Monday of the 2013-14 city budget comes some support for a community garden at the Youth Bureau off State Street.

The plan for this year is to create 25 raised garden beds of 4x4 to 4x12 feet for community members to rent and use to grow fruits and vegetables.

Jocelyn Sikorski, youth bureau director (photo), gave a short presentation to the City Council on the project near the end of Monday's meeting.

"We're really optimistic that we will fill this community garden this year and sell out all 25 beds," Sikorski said.

The project was actually started in the Spring of 2011 by former Youth Bureau director Deb Kerr-Rosenbeck after she realized that many of the youth served by the agency weren't eating enough fruits and vegetables at home.

With one raised bed, Kerr-Rosenbeck, with the help of the children at the bureau, planted a garden and vegetables. Some of the children had never eaten certain kinds of produce before; what was grown became part of the meals served by the agency.

When Leadership Genesee caught wind of the project, some members teamed up to help build four more raised beds in the Spring of 2012.

This year, the plan is to transform the long-unused wading pond behind the Youth Bureau building into a spot for 25 raised beds.

City residents will be able to rent a bed for $15 to $35 for the season, Sikorski said.

"Our long-term goal is to have more community gardens around the city," Sikorski said.

The city portion of the funding for the project is less than $1,000, with donations coming from members of the community.

Constructions of the beds will be part of the Day of Caring on May 8.

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