Free Foraging Garden Rises

Allan Appel PhotoToday the raised beds are holding the Common Ground seniors who are building them. In months to come, they’ll hold lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, and an herb garden. And the fresher than fresh produce will be for the taking by anyone who feels they need to forage or glean fruits and vegetables.

This churchyard foraging or “gleaning” garden is rising on the Olive Street side of St. Paul and St. James Episcopal Church in Wooster Square.

It’s the idea of the church’s Rev. Alex Dyer. Dyer runs the Loaves and Fishes food pantry at the church and is the newest member of New Haven Food Policy Council, a group that tackles urban farming and the city’s food challenges.

The work is being done by a group of five Common Ground High School students as part of a senior project about homelessness.

Click here to read about another Common Ground senior project, this one far sadder: the planting of a tree in memory of Common Ground senior Javier Martinez, who was shot to death at the end of last year.

Arianna Pina (pictured) designed the gleaning garden, which is to consist of three ten-by-three-by-two foot beds and one smaller two-by-two-by four bed. The larger beds will grow the fruits and vegetables; the smaller, an herb garden.

She and her colleagues on the project, including Miranda Bailey-Russomano, Keleashea Moss, Jesus Reyes, and Tyrone Walker, worked with their teachers to advise Dyer on which crops will grow best and suit the purposes and the conditions of the gleaning garden.

Among the factors considered were shade, the need for easy maintenance, and ease of harvesting, Arianna said.

Cherry tomatoes, small cucumbers, lettuce, and strawberries made the cut.

Dyer called the project a natural fit with the church’s Loaves & Fishes food pantry, whose beneficiaries are always in need of fresh vegetables and fruit.

He said community gardens are 10 percent about gardening and 90 percent about ... community.

Parishioners as well as those who avail themselves of the food pantry may be asked to do maintenance and watering.

Dyer brought in Common Ground to carry out the plan because the environmentally-themed high school’s director, Liz Cox, formerly served as director of Loaves & Fishes pantry at the church.

Weather permitting, the beds will be measured, drilled, and hammered together by the end of the week.

Next step: Dyer will purchase seedlings for his first future free crop during the seedling sale at, yes, Common Ground High School. That event will take place at the West Rock campus on Saturday May 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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posted by: Billy on May 15, 2014  10:08pm

Way to go Alex, TW, and Common Ground students! This is a great example of taking a good idea, getting some partners together, and putting it into action before it has time to smolder. I look forward to walking by this summer.

A pantry with a garden on the way in/out is a cool concept. I hope it can be replicated.

posted by: durric on May 16, 2014  11:02am

It is great to see such a good organization doing even more for the community! Keep it up PJs!

posted by: sgrant on May 16, 2014  11:14am

What a great idea! Kudos to Loaves & Fishes and Common Ground Students.  So many people will benefit.  I look forward to updates on this project.

posted by: CSK New Haven on May 16, 2014  11:23am

We here at Community Soup Kitchen have worked with Loaves and Fishes for years! We are so glad to see their work continue to grow and respond to the needs of the community! Wishing you all the best!

posted by: alycia on May 16, 2014  1:00pm

Inspiring concept! Thanks to Reverend Alex and the great students of Common Ground!