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Bethlehem community garden receives tremendous support

Sixteen raised garden beds were recently installed next to the ball fields on Elm Street in Bethlehem. Spearheaded by Martie Cook and Terry Martin, the community garden project aims to increase food stability for residents in need. (Photo by Angel Larcom) (click for larger version)
May 30, 2019
BETHLEHEM — "It was so exciting to watch the community garden beds come together," said Martie Cook, one of the driving forces behind the resurgence of Bethlehem's community garden.

Located at its new home at the end of Elm Street near the Bethlehem ball fields, the project has brought the community together and planting has begun.

"Often, when you see the land, you realize the plan you first designed will not work and you have to re-do it," Cook said her project partner, Terry Martin was a good sport about redesigning the entire project at the last minute. "We changed it so the drainage would be more dispersed and so children would be forced to walk through the gardens rather than run through them."

Cook and Martin initiated the garden project in partnership with the SWAN (Supplying Weekend Assistance Through Nutrition) Program at Bethlehem Elementary School (BES), which delivers a weekend supply of food to families in need. According to Cook, there are nearly 50 Bethlehem children that have been identified to need the food the gardens will produce.

"We are not judging anybody's need," said Cook. "If you have a need, that's why the food is there. If you don't have a need, we hope that you will respect those who do."

The BES SWAN families were sent a letter last week inviting them to participate in the gardens.

"It's all voluntary because we recognize that not everyone can participate," said Cook.

To date, the project has welcomed multiple volunteers. Cook said the project has been endorsed by Tim Fleury at the Bethlehem Recreation Department and no town resources have been required.

"Without the help of several businesses and individuals, this couldn't have happened," continued Cook.

According to Cook, Polsen Lumber gave "enormous consideration" when providing and delivering enough lumber for sixteen raised garden beds. Contributions also arrived from Trackside Farm and Garden, P&S Equipment, Presby Construction, Lowe's, Home Depot and Gardens Dream Farm, among others.

When asked about volunteer schedules over the summer, Cook said, "We need more consistent weather before we can establish a care schedule."

She anticipates having all sixteen beds planted by mid-June.

AJ Coleman
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Varney Smith
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