Kudos to all who participate in the Fall Kill Partnership Gardens-- and Heather Wernimont for initiating this gardening project. Learn more about the Fall Kill Partnership Gardens by visiting their website http://www.fkpgardens.webs.com/ and get involved!
Wernimont's gardening efforts make the community bloom
by: Barbara Kram
Poughkeepsie Journal, August 6, 2011
In the 1971 book, "Being There" by Jerzy Kosinski, the character Chance the Gardener is a simple man whose statements about gardening are taken as profound and complex comments on life.
Heather Wernimont would agree that gardening can be a great metaphor for life because she knows firsthand that a garden is more than a place to plant flowers and vegetables. For Heather, a garden is about community, and through her work leading the Fall Kill Partnership Gardens in Poughkeepsie, Heather has tended to simple gardens and has made a profound impact on the community by doing so.
This Poughkeepsie resident is originally from Iowa, so it's no surprise that she knows how to work the land. While spending time teaching in Japan, Heather became fascinated with the way Japanese people use urban spaces to grow fresh produce. Heather returned to the U.S. in 2007, just when the local food movement was beginning to take off here in the states. After volunteering in New York City and Boston in urban gardens, Heather moved to Poughkeepsie to work with an organization that engaged youth in projects related to farming. While that position lost its funding, it did open many doors for Heather, and allowed her to move on to her current position at Sprout Creek Farm in LaGrangeville as a gardener and educator.
She also learned during this time that many Poughkeepsie residents were looking for a place to create a community garden, and that's when Heather decided to get her hands dirty, so to speak. She volunteered to submit a proposal to the Family Partnership Center to use a parcel of space in its back yard for this purpose. She then facilitated meetings with a group of neighbors and residents because she knew that this had to be a group effort to be successful.
"This garden quickly became an outlet for everyone involved. It is not only about growing food, but about building community. It cannot be sustained if there isn't a genuine group commitment," Heather says.
Once the proposal was approved, the group created its own governance structure, and determined individual plot size, design, prices and other important guidelines. And soon, along with a community, bloomed a lush garden filled with corn, squash, lettuce, radishes, basil and so much more.
"With 32 plots, each one is different. We are all learning from each other, building on what works in one neighbor's garden, and helping newer gardeners find their own style," she adds.
The garden started with no funding and few resources. With some loaned tools, and with the money made from renting the plots, the organizers were able to buy a lawnmower and a wheel barrow. They also use one of the plots to grow garlic, which when ready, they sell at farmers' markets and fundraisers in order to help the garden flourishing. The goal now is to raise enough money to build a fence around the garden, partly as a barrier, and partly as a symbol of permanence - showing everyone that this garden is here to stay.
"Poughkeepsie is lucky to have Heather," says Susan Grove, executive director of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project as well as private FKPG gardener. "I am amazed by how much of the small amount of spare time she has (following her day job as a farm educator) that she willingly devotes to coordinating the FKPG on a volunteer basis. It is evidence of her unwavering commitment to creating opportunities for city residents to grow, share and enjoy fresh food."
The garden has a waiting list for participation, which pleases Heather. She cherishes her involvement in the project, and plans to continue developing the garden into a truly self-sustaining program.
Attagirl! Heather Wernimont for your growing enthusiasm and passion! We are lucky to have you tending our gardens and our communities.