Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Community Gardening in a Cemetery

Question: What happens when a county wants to make your community garden into a movie theatre/restaurant/motel complex?

Answer: The county wins, takes your community garden, paves it over and calls the resulting area "The Gardens".

If you ever travel on I-81 in southern New York State, you will see this complex on the side of the northbound lanes just past Exit 5. There's a Cracker Barrel, a Fairfield Inn and a movie complex.  When I go there, which is not often, I always feel a little pang. "The Gardens" indeed.

And what happens to the gardeners? 

Well, we need to backtrack a little.

When we moved here in the mid 1980's we rented the upstairs of a two family rental home. It was too late in the year to garden. But the following year, even as we were looking for a house to buy, we were suffering from GWS (Gardening Withdrawal Syndrome).  We heard about a garden-owned community garden on Upper Front Street (technically not in Binghamton but it's a Binghamton mailing address so let's not quibble.) We rented two plots.

This was our first community garden.  It was run by Broome County.  We went to the County Office Building in downtown Binghamton on a certain designated day in February.  It was first come-first serve.  You didn't have any ability to keep your plot(s) from the last year.  On the other hand, the county plowed the land in plenty of time for the main gardening season and provided staking to identify each plot, and city water. The plots were 20' x 25', 500 square feet.

What was the garden before it was a community garden?  It was Binghamton's Potter's field. We were gardening in a former final resting place for the area's poor and unknown. Yes, there's a bit of an "ick" factor and I'm glad I didn't know that I was digging in a former cemetery when we first started our gardening.

Before that, the local Native Americans used the land and an archeological dig while we were still gardening the land produced, as I recall, some arrowheads and other Native American finds.

But then the county realized that this land would serve them better on the tax rolls, hence the plans to build "The Gardens"  We gardeners fought it as best we could but the county won.  For several years we did not have a community garden.  It was tough for us as our green thumbs begged for action.

But the Gardeners Struck Back.   More on that Friday.

(Tomorrow and Thursday are the 11 month flood anniversary and I will honor that anniversary - along with my Wednesday Blooms feature - so click in again Friday for The Rest of the Story).


  1. Interesting... I like the cliffhanger at the end. Be sure and link us up :) Sorry I haven't commented for a while, I was busy giving stuff away :) Done now. Will be around more often. WRITE ON!

  2. Ouch, a cliffhanger. I can't wait for the next part of this story. I had a community garden plot many years ago which was on a few acres of what used to be hundreds of acres of farm land and orchards in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. Some of the plots are still there although it's now only one acre.


Your comments sustain me, as long as they are civil, are on topic, and do not contain profanity, advertising of any kind, links or spam. Any messages not meeting these criteria will immediately be composted, and my flowers will enjoy their contents.