Seeds planted for Damien’s Pantry gardening program

May 11, 2024

A pilot program that gives local residents the space and assistance needed to learn to grow their own food will kick off this spring at Damien’s Place Food Pantry. 

Damien’s recently cut the ribbon on its new $2.3 million location, which has been constructed over the past year. 

During the capital campaign to fund the new building, AD Makepeace wanted to give the pantry a grant, and asked that the pantry use it for community gardens, said the Chair of Damien’s Board of Directors Anita Smith. 

Makepeace donated the materials as well as the funding for the project. Now, 32 raised garden beds, each 5 feet by 10 feet in area, stand outside the pantry, ready for those with a green thumb — or without — to bring them to life. 

“The gardens are really not just for people who garden, but for anyone who has an interest,” said Caty Duncan, a volunteer with Damien’s Pantry. 

The goal with the garden is to help people learn how to grow their own food, and to provide people with a space to garden who otherwise might not be able to, said Duncan and garden manager Steve Tempini. 

To that end, each gardener who signs up for a plot will be paired with a garden ambassador, an experienced gardener who will provide garden advice as needed. 

“We’re looking for people that want to have a plot, but also volunteers, like if there are people in the community who know a lot about gardening, or have run community gardens before, or even just want to help out with little things, that would be great as well,” said Tempini. 

Inquiries about the garden can be sent to Duncan and Temini said applicants should come to the pantry, fill out an application and pay the $25 membership fee to reserve their spot; the membership fee serves as a sign of commitment that gardeners will tend to their plots. 

While each applicant will get one plot, the plots are large enough that several people could apply together intending to share one, they said. 

Gardeners will be required to plant their first crop by Saturday, June 1. On Saturday, May 18, the pantry will be holding a kick-off event to help get gardeners started, providing sign-ups for any plots that are left, introducing gardeners to their garden ambassadors and giving out starter items such as garden tools and plants. 

“We’re just hoping it is a good space for people to learn about gardening, and you don’t have to know anything about gardening to do it,” Smith said.