Growing strong

Randy Parmer and Rachel Sather. Photo by Mookie Forcella.

Randy Parmer and Rachel Sather. Photo by Mookie Forcella.

Gardens for Nutrition in New Paltz still thriving after 37 years, hurricanes and floods

On the floodplain of the Wallkill River, just off Huguenot Street in the Village of New Paltz, lies a peaceful five-acre slice of paradise called the Gardens for Nutrition. There, some 135 gardeners – mostly local, but a few from as far away as Poughkeepsie, Saugerties, New York City and New Jersey – tend 20-by-30-foot plots of rich alluvial soil to raise organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers.

Many have been gardening here for years, marking out their shares of the communal land with odd bits of fencing and hand-built gateways. The plots often include chairs or benches, shaded from the bright sunshine by umbrellas or canvas awnings. That’s because the gardeners come here day after day in the growing season for more than just a bit of outdoor exercise or a harvest of healthy greens. They come to sit for a spell between weeding sessions and enjoy the view of the Gunks, the birdsongs and the breeze off the little river. They come to hang over the fence and schmooze with their neighbors, sharing tips about what grows best here or how to deter pests.

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“It’s a real community.” That’s what a visitor hears over and over from the people who garden here, whether they be old-timers or new recruits.

“If I can, I come every day that I’m here. I kind of go into a trance, pulling weeds,” says Jo Gangem, who splits her time between New York City and a condominium complex in New Paltz where gardening is not permitted. It’s only her second year at the Gardens for Nutrition. “This is a nice, friendly, communal experience. Last year I knew totally nothing. But there’s a lot of sharing of information – and also a lot of opinions on how to do things.”

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