Pea Patch Volunteering: Community Gardens Keep Giving

By Bonnie Grant | December 3, 2020
Image by SbytovaMN
by Bonnie Grant
December 3, 2020

Giving is a process that benefits both the giver and the receiver. It really is a two-way street that affords opportunities for both sides. Community gardens are open to those who apply and can be a way for those with no land or outdoor space to grow their own food. Often called pea patches, community garden sites are usually donated spaces that rely on volunteer effort to shape them into usable garden space. Developing these spaces is a way of giving to your community and sharing the fruits of everyone’s labors.

Community Pea Patch Volunteering

Some of my best times were spent helping to build a pea patch in my community. I was looking for a position as a garden volunteer in a capacity that would help my neighborhood. I needed a flexible volunteer position, as I still had work and my own chores with which to contend. It turned out that a new pea patch was being developed within walking distance. I applied and was accepted. All I needed to do was bring some tools, muscle, and ideas for the space. You could come at any time, so I tried to fit in some evenings and every Sunday.

The site was donated by the local power company. It was a vacant corner lot full of weeds, but with a dedicated water source. Our first task was to build a shed to house our tools and materials. Often, pea patches are located in underserved neighborhoods, and such was the case with ours. It wouldn’t be smart to leave even a wheelbarrow unattended. Next, we contacted local businesses for help funding the site and for donated materials. Our community businesses responded with gusto and soon we were flooded with reclaimed and repurposed materials, as well as funds and new donations.

We needed a vision, so we had meetings to brainstorm how to design the site. We wanted paths between the beds, artwork, a bench, and much more. Once we had a plan, the hard work started. We were donated an earth mover for a few days, which made the hard work of shifting dirt and leveling much easier. We got to work with several dump trucks worth of compost, gravel, cement, and other items. As we worked, the beds began to appear, flanked by gravel paths. The edges of the entire lot were bordered by handmade cement edging. Stepping stones were personalized by every volunteer.

Over the course of a month, our community pea patch began to resemble a garden. We planted perennials like raspberries at one end of the lot, both as a border and as an edible. A few fruit trees went in near the shed. The rest was divided up into little plots. Each plot was enriched with compost so it would be ready for the designees of each garden. As a garden volunteer, I was eligible for a site but I declined it in favor of giving my position away to someone else in our community. I had enough garden to manage and wanted someone without land to have the opportunity.

In just a few months, the pea patch was humming with activity. Our diverse neighborhood found people of all walks of life growing their produce. They shared seeds with each other, helped water gardens when the owners were away, gave away excess produce and more. The whole experience was heartwarming and delightful. It was truly a labor of love and I’m sure it is still a location of neighborhood cooperation and sharing.

Giving time and a little effort is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and others. It doesn’t take money and it need not take all your time. Just a little bit of yourself can make a big difference.

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