Salisbury Rising: More than veggies growing in Camden

Martin Hutchinson and his helper, Shane, pull weeds from the Community Garden on Camden Avenue.

“If you want to transform a neighborhood, you must change the composition of that neighborhood’s vacant lots.”

I first shared that statement in my 2016 TEDxSBY talk, “Growing More Than Veggies.” I continue to delight in seeing this transforming work being done in nine community gardens in Salisbury and Wicomico County.

The MAC Center hosts two, The Healing Rose Garden — a garden for cancer survivors and Grant’s Garden — designed to help the participants develop a healthy relationship with food and increase wellness.

The Halo Garden grows veggies to be served in the Halo Café. Habitat for Humanity has two community gardens in the Church Street neighborhood for the benefit of local neighbors.

St. Albans Episcopal Church has a community garden where you can rent a space to grow food for your family. The Hazel Center Kids Magical Garden, located at the Salvation Army Hazel Center, engages the children who participate in other Salvation Army programs in the process of growing, nurturing, and eating fresh healthy veggies.

Camden Community Garden, The Boundless Garden, and the just-built Waterside Community Garden all use the model of developing a vacant city owned lot into a destination for the benefit of the neighborhood. Each of these three gardens are adjacent to playgrounds for the purpose of engaging young children in the process of growing food.

I am most familiar with the Camden Community Garden as I founded it in 2015. We are now in our third growing season and have seen many positive benefits in the Camden Area Neighborhood. We took a once vacant lot that was strewn with trash and dog poop and turned it into a destination for the neighborhood. Adding a little free library increased the appeal, especially to children.

Early in the first growing season, we realized that we were growing more than veggies through the community garden. We have seen neighbors from all walks of life come to the garden and meet one another, forming a more connected community.

We have seen bored children, that often acted out in negative ways in the surrounding neighborhood, become children engaged in the production of food and in learning about nurturing plants.

We are growing more than veggies. We have seen neighborhood pride and stability increase as crime rates have decreased significantly in this neighborhood. The garden has attracted new residents to the neighborhood.

The Camden Community Garden and The Boundless Garden have brought eight different churches together working side by side to bless their neighborhoods.

Last year, at Camden Community Garden, we added a Summer Lunch at the Garden which offered food, games, crafts, other activities, and relationship building every weekday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Originally the lunches were provided by the Wicomico County Board of Education and now are provided by Olde Towne Deli (Downtown Salisbury) and Sysco.

This summer’s lunches began June 19 and will continue until Sept. 1. The Corner Church Collective under the leadership of The Restoration Project and Community of Joy are providing the leadership for Summer Lunch at the Garden.

 

Martin Hutchison, left, pastor of Community of Joy Church, Founder of Camden Community Garden; Susan Phillips, Director of Housing and Community Development; and Mayor Jake Day look at the radishes growing in the community garden on Camden Avenue. 

This spring, the city of Salisbury purchased a boarded up 3,780-square-foot home adjacent to the Camden Community Garden, to be turned into the city’s first youth development center. We hope this will build on the “growing more than veggies” work of the Camden Community Garden and Summer Lunch at the Garden.

It has been gratifying work for all who are engaged in the process of developing a community garden in Salisbury as we see the power of a more connected community, bored children being engaged, and quality healthy food made available.

Martin Hutchison is pastor of Community of Joy Church, and started and runs the Camden Community Garden.

 

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.