Middletown Urban GARDENS Builds a New Community Garden
Middletown Urban Generating Agricultural Resources and Delivering Education on Nutrition in Schools (GARDENS) is helping to build a new community garden on a lot on Ferry Street in downtown Middletown that is owned by Nehemiah Housing Corporation. Middletown Urban GARDENS, also known as MUG, is a student-run collective that helps maintain a garden and after-school program at Macdonough Elementary School and in other parts of Middletown.
The community garden is an initiative of the North End Action Team (NEAT,) which serves as the garden's official sponsor and manager. MUG is providing labor. Adin S. Vaewsorn ’15, one of the founding members of MUG also credits Nehemiah Housing with aiding in the creation of the garden.
Vaewsorn and several other University students founded the relatively new program of MUG last year as an extension of the already-established Garden Club at Macdonough Elementary. MUG built a garden at the school with the initial funding that they received from the Green Fund and NEAT, which is a community advocacy organization. Additionally, students, faculty, and staff of Macdonough Elementary helped to create the garden, in which students and residents can benefit from nutrition and gardening classes.
“I guess you could basically call Middletown Urban GARDENS a coalition of students working to create productive, community-oriented green spaces in Middletown,” Vaewsorn said.
This year, with the help of interested students and residents, MUG is extending its services to the greater Middletown community, specifically Ferry Street. MUG has also received help from the administration of Macdonough Elementary.
“[Principal of Macdonough Elementary John Romeo] is open to new ideas and he provides logistical support,” Vaewsorn said.
The abandoned lot on Ferry Street came to Vaewsorn’s attention while he was working in an office next to it. He said that when he saw the lot filled with trash and litter, he knew he wanted to make something more of it. He then approached NEAT to help him secure permission and create a garden at this new location. According to Vaewsorn, the location is presenting them with new difficulties.
“The thing about [the lot on] Ferry Street is that it used to have a house on it, and when they moved the house, they left a lot of debris,” Vaewsorn said. “That often pollutes the soil, so we are not planting directly into the ground; we’re planting into these raised vegetable beds.”
MUG has taken additional measures to address potential issues with pollution and contamination.
“The whole place is being covered with cardboard and wood chips to prevent weed growth and isolate the contaminated soil,” James K. Carter ’14 said.
Though only four vegetable beds have currently been made, the garden is open to the community. Residents of Middletown can go to Ferry Street to do gardening work and take home healthy produce free of charge.
Vaewsorn hopes to create a greater range of gardens in the future, but currently MUG does not have enough funds. With more money, MUG can expand its current gardens and build new ones around the community.
“We’re going to have to write grants, and we’re going to have to apply for more money from the Green Fund,” Vaewsorn said. “We’re still in the process of seeking funds, so if anybody wants to help us out, we want them to.”