Monmouth ACTS helps connect residents with community garden

FREEHOLD – When administrators at the Freehold Community Garden on Lloyd Street in Freehold Borough noticed a decline in the number of applications for a garden bed, they took action.

Gardener Jeanne Patterson tapped into her network with Neighborhood Connections To Health (NCTH), a coalition comprised of individuals who have a vested interest in improving the health and well-being of Freehold residents, to learn more, according to a press release from Monmouth County ACTS (Assisting Community Through Services).

“Neighborhood Connections shared with me that Freehold Borough is about 68 percent Latino; we were not serving that population in the community garden,” Patterson said.

She made it her goal to connect with Spanish-speaking gardeners. To do so, she reached out to Monmouth ACTS’ community partner Monmouth County Council for Young Children (CCYC), of Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, an organization especially active in ACTS’ Early Childhood Success hub.

CCYC’s Jenna Sistad invited Patterson to attend a meeting; CCYC serves as the New Jersey Department of Children and Families’ state advisory council for early care, education and parent leadership and advocacy, according to the press release.

At the CCYC meeting, Patterson met Karen and Sara, two Spanish-speaking Freehold residents who were interested in gardening.

After NCTH supplied the two women with a scholarship to cover their application fee and Patterson gave them seed packets, Karen and Sara started gardening a shared plot at the community garden, just a short distance from their homes, according to the press release.

They water, weed, care for and maintain a healthy vegetable garden, including squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, kale, cucumbers and pole beans. The crops they harvest go right into their own kitchens, or are gifted to parents, family members and friends, supplementing their food shopping.

“I like how we have our own space to grow and it’s all organic – no pesticides or anything. I like to come by and check on what’s growing – we are seeing our food develop completely,” Karen said. “And we are saving money on groceries, too.”

The best part of gardening, both women said, is working with their children in the garden.

“I love that I can bring my son here to help me and he can learn this skill for his future,” Sara said. “It’s like a family outing.”

Since joining the community garden, Karen and Sara have helped with translating efforts for Spanish-speaking gardeners and encouraged others to sign up for the garden next spring.

Patterson worked with the Freehold Health Department to have the community garden application translated into Spanish.

“This is an exciting example of what Monmouth ACTS exists to do – help the great organizations in Monmouth County connect with each other to streamline services and make sure opportunities like the Freehold Community Garden are available to residents like Karen and Sara,” Monmouth County Freeholder Sue Kiley said.

For more information about joining the Freehold Community Garden, email FreeholdCommunityGarden@gmail.com

For more information about Monmouth ACTS, visit http://monmouthacts.org/