Two realities came together to create a need for a new community garden project in Concord.
First, prior to 2009, Concord’s only community garden was located off of Clinton Street, far from the bus routes and without access to water. Next, since 1999, over 1,000 refugee families have moved to Concord. Many of these families had a history of agricultural work in their home lands, and in refugee camps; they brought with them a strong desire to grow their own food. Since these families cannot afford to purchase their own land, having access to public space for gardening allows them greater economic independence, meaningful work to support their families at a time when there are few jobs to find, and an important psychological connection to something familiar at a time when they are facing incredible losses and life changes.
Ralph Jimenez, from the Concord Monitor, had come to know many in the refugee community through his work at the local newspaper; he was aware of the need for projects that would help these families increase their food security. He approached NHTI about the use of one of their fields. The project was offered a large field, next to an oxbow pond, that lies in the flood plain. As such, it is not likely to be developed by the school, thus offering a secure location for the new garden project. For both environmental and philosophical reasons, our project is entirely organic in its practices.
In May of 2009 we had 54 garden plots turned over; forty-five families and individuals gardened one or more plots, allowing many families to produce wonderful crops of cucumbers, squashes, beans, mustard greens, onions, corn, carrots and tomatoes. The next summer we expanded to 120 garden plots due to the dramatic increase in the number of refugee families arriving in Concord over the previous ten months.
Today, we have a total of 168 garden plots.
The Sycamore Community Garden is uniquely designed to serve families with limited incomes. Our garden plots are only $20 per year; this is about half of what is usually charged in community gardens. Our goal is for families to be able to garden with no more than the original $20 investment. For families who can’t afford $20, we look to several local churches & organizations to help us cover their fee.