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Common Ground Garden — a special community place

Tomatoes grow in the Common Ground Garden in Saranac Lake. (Photo provided by Paul Sorgule)

There is something magical about growing your own food. Knowing where your food comes from, watching daily progress as vegetables draw their nourishment from the soil and the rain, paying attention to the flowers as they turn to the fruit of the plant, the leaves spread their wings, lettuce standing at attention and reaching for the sun, tomatoes taking shape and eventually turning red or yellow as they near a moment when they might burst with seeds and moisture — this is the magic. The work of the farmer is back-breaking and stressful — the work of the individual gardener is appreciation and joy.

Community gardens have been around for a long time — there were those moments in American history when victory gardens provided opportunities for those who were food insecure to help feed their families, and as such became a integral part of a small community’s survival initiatives. These gardens still provide that opportunity for those without ample resources to provide balanced meals at home — to do so spending sweat equity vs. limited financial resources. But community gardens can be, and are, so much more.

They are dedicated space within a community for people of all ages, ethnicity and socioeconomic condition to share in those moments of wonder from tilling the soil, planting seeds, weeding, watching plants grow and harvesting the fruits of the individual’s labor. At the same time, the garden provides a vehicle for people to gather and share this experience, helping each other out, offering advice, and applauding the effort and result of those with a green thumb.

Community gardens can also provide educational opportunities for people to learn more about what and how to grow items that are best suited to a climate, build an understanding of the science of gardening, expand their appreciation for otherwise never consumed but wonderfully flavorful ingredients, and create healthy, nutritious experiences for themselves and those who benefit from the harvest. When an opportunity is offered for individuals to learn how to garden — a whole new world of possibility is gained. When you pull a carrot from the soil, gingerly remove a zucchini blossom to stuff and bake, pluck a tomato from the vine while it is still warm from the late July sun, or snap an ear of corn from its stalk and bite into the kernels before it is even cooked, you will learn to appreciate food in an entirely different way.

Saranac Lake provides a wonderful opportunity for seasoned and novice gardeners to supplement their food pantry, learn how to best approach the selection and care of crops that relish the opportunity to grow in the Adirondacks, discover new and interesting facts about their neighbors, embrace organically grown, fresh vegetables that uplift meals at home, and maybe even share some of that bumper harvest with friends and family. “I grew this for you” is a statement that has a deep meaning to those on the receiving end.

The Common Ground Garden in Saranac Lake (Photos provided by Paul Sorgule)

“When you garden in this space, you feel like you are part of something bigger.” — a community gardener

Driving down Old Lake Colby Road, opposite the back of Adirondack Medical Center, the community garden awaits those who want to learn about, care for and enjoy the end result of growing your own. This is a wonderfully inviting space that is cared for by the garden members and graciously offered to community gardeners by Adirondack Health.

When I walk through the gate of this special space, I am stunned to see how much difference a day can make when the sun is hot and periodic summer rain helps to quench the thirst of all that has been planted. Plots of various sizes are offered to those who are excited about the opportunity and willing to make the commitment. (Serious gardeners make attention to their plot a daily routine.)

“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.” — Unknown

This year, group work days to care for the grounds surrounding garden plots have been impacted by COVID-19, but everyone hopes that by next season we can put this difficult time behind us and not only enjoy gardening but also the opportunity to share with friends — the experience that surrounds the garden environment.

The Common Ground Garden in Saranac Lake (Photos provided by Paul Sorgule)

If you are interested in becoming part of our Common Ground community garden family, then drive by and see the fruits of our labor and contact us at slcommunitygardens@gmail.com to reserve your plot for 2021.

As a side note: The community garden will gladly accept your bagged leaves from fall raking — this is a perfect blanket for winter soil. Additionally, good-condition gardening tools that are in need of use can always find a home in our shed, and a picnic bench looking for a place to live would be well received.

Paul Sorgule lives in Saranac Lake.

The Common Ground Garden in Saranac Lake (Photos provided by Paul Sorgule)

The Common Ground Garden in Saranac Lake (Photos provided by Paul Sorgule)

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