By Mark Adams
“Time to go!” someone shouted.
I was just about to interview William Artist, the construction manager at the Pershing Avenue Neighborhood farm, when three gunshots rang out. William and his construction crew, made up of a group of neighborhood volunteer kids, hopped into a van and took off, leaving me flat footed, until the cops showed up and started putting little plastic triangles on the sidewalk. It was 11 am on Tuesday, July 7, one year to the minute since a fatal stabbing on the same spot.
It’s a tough neighborhood.
The Pershing Avenue Neighborhood Farm “intends to address the community’s desire for a safer, more inviting environment for families, children and neighbors by creating new, safe places to enjoy the outdoors,” according to Scenic Hudson, the driving force behind the initiative. The quarter acre plot on the city of Poughkeepsie’s north side is owned by the city, and developed by Regional Plan Association/New City Parks and the Youth Build Americorps Program of Nubian Directions II, Inc.
On July 16, I met some of the Pershing Avenue farmers for a tour. The project is unfolding in two phases – half of the site will be an educational garden to show kids how food is grown – this will open in spring 2022. The other half is a community garden consisting of 22 raised beds – each one 4 X 8 feet – tended by people and groups who participated in a lottery for the right to plant and care for their beds. That segment is underway, with gorgeous vegetables in full swing and a lot of them ready to eat. And the construction crew had returned to finish the garden shed.
Clyde King is a staff member at Mental Health America (MHA) Poughkeepsie. He visits his 4 X 8 raised bed three to five days a week, tending tomatoes, sunflowers, purple basil, romaine, fingerlaine potatoes and ping tung eggplant. I helped him transplant a couple of pepper plants from under a zucchini bush to a sunnier spot.
Then I met up with a bunch of folks from the Vet 2 Vet program, a division of MHA. Army veteran Michelle Noone had been trying to secure a spot at the community garden at Vassar Farms, until she entered the lottery for a Pershing Avenue garden plot. Now her 4 X 8 raised bed is available for all the members of Vet 2 Vet. Michelle and her friend Kevin Flaherty, an air force veteran, are crisis counselors. Also on the scene were peer mentors Victor Zamaloff and Bill Lediard, and navy veteran David Pell. They were all helping to harvest an over-ripe zucchini squash, and some sun gold tomatoes. Michelle says the purpose is to grow food and to create a safe refuge for the vets. She’s looking for a space, maybe an acre or so, where they could really grow enough food to make a difference.
The Pershing Avenue Community Garden is one step, an important step, toward a bright future for the great city of Poughkeepsie.
- Mark you calendar – the Farming in Dutchess Virtual Series is hosted by the county executive’s agricultural advisory committee. I will be hosting the “Local Foods and Their Importance” segment at 7 pm on August 3. Panelists include Josh Morgenthau from Fishkill Farms and Dr. Sam Simon from Hudson Valley Fresh. The presentation is free and open to the public. Google “Farming in Dutchess Virtual Series,” scroll down to the appropriate session, and register. You will be sent a zoom link. “See” you August 3rd!