Hay Park Community Garden

Author: 

  • Twila Albrecht

Hay Park Community Garden began during the recession in 2008, when people were considering how to be more self-sufficient by growing their own food, described Aaron Kingsley, one of the founders of the garden. In its first year, the garden at Hay Park filled up right away. However, Kingsley has observed that as we move out of the recession, there is less talk, to a degree, about growing our own food. “I wonder if interest slowly begins to wane, and how can we incentivize that, and encourage people to keep thinking about that...(it’s) a really necessary thing for people to get in the dirt and grow their own food and to meet each other that way,” said Kingsley. 

Kingsley’s work as City Forester has allowed him to explore a variety of neighborhoods within Goshen. “One of the things I encounter time and again when I’m talking with people, especially over 70 years old...they’ll say to me, ‘When I was growing up we had a pear tree in the back, or an apple tree, and next door they had peaches and plums, and down the road they had berries, so there was always fruit somewhere, and we’d all go and we’d pick.’ That’s like a relic of the past now,” said Kingsley. 

As he listens to these stories from the Depression era, Kingsley is reminded of the recent recession, and though it was small in comparison, he recognizes a similar awareness that was cultivated out of that desperation. “It’s been interesting to me to hear them talk about this kind of ghost past, and to find an echo of it happening around us,” he said. “How do we recreate the desire to grow your food in your own place, which then also becomes available to other people, and how do we make it clear that that is a really good thing to do.” Most importantly, said Kingsley, people were brought together in a very natural kind of way, that was unplanned. 

“Public space and private space offer a different feel that you can create,” said Kingsley, referring to community gardens. “As a public entity, and a public space, part of what we really want to see happening is the community aspect created.” The challenge is finding ways to encourage participants to engage with each other in the garden. Yet, he has noticed evidence of diverse food traditions growing in Hay Park Community Garden. “I see two different cultures growing food that’s familiar to them right next to each other.” 

From carrots to hot peppers, the space at Hay Park continues to get used, indicating that some neighbors still desire to have a garden. “At the end of the season, you can see some plots that are fully harvested...and then there are other beds that you can see somebody made a great effort, but toward the end of the summer the interest or time waned and the weeds took over; but that’s okay! I still feel like a pretty important purpose is being served.”