Groundbreaking Speech

Here is the text version of a speech by Rebecca Martin, chair of the garden committee, given during the April 22, 2009 Victory Garden at City Hall ceremony:

Good morning and thank you for joining us to share this historic moment on a most appropriate day – Earth Day, April 22nd 2009, for the groundbreaking of Kingston City Hall’s Victory Garden.

Almost three years ago, community gardens in the City of Kingston became a mission of a group of citizens living in the active Ward 9 district. Through their research and hard work, a path was forged and an idea set in motion that would help to create a higher quality of life for those living here through the work of community gardens.

For success citywide, it seemed imperative to find a way to bring people together around the topic of gardening so to nurture interest, support and volunteers for future garden projects.  Encouraging citizens to turn more of their lawn space, backyards and/or rooftops into productive gardens gave us a chance to impact the largest number of residents swiftly and with ease.  But how does an organization build a successful movement? It was then that I had learned of the Victory Garden effort in America more then half a century ago; when the government, to offset the costs of war, launched a massive marketing campaign that encouraged a nation to plant home gardens. Victory Gardens, though often hidden in back yards, became as patriotic as hanging an American flag on a front porch.  It’s inspiration seemed relevant to me, though today we are faced with many challenges that are not limited to war. They include global warming, a growing population, dwindling resources, rising food costs, unsustainable living habits and a great disconnect to our land and proper farming practices – all of which causing great harm to our planet and threatening  future generations ability to survive.

Through an effort made by KingstonCitizens.org in collaboration with the Kingston Land Trust, The Kingston Victory Garden Project was launched in 2007.  Little did we know then, that in a most organic way this garden initiative would be as timely.  In recent months, we have witnessed a new era of awareness throughout the country where people are making a concerted effort again to grow their own food and in a very big way.

Today, we celebrate an organic garden at one of our City’s most prominent municipal buildings. It not only sets a positive tone for residents in the city, but it is one of it’s kind nationwide right now and has been sited by Roger Dorion, founder of the ‘Eat the View’ campaign that gathered over 100,000 signatures in support of the organic garden now being created at the White House.

This season, with the help of many we have selected to grow an heirloom ‘Three Sisters’ garden of Maize, Squash and Beans.  Historic in nature, it is appropriate given that this is the 400th year anniversary of the exploration of Henry Hudson’s namesake river. Hudson would have likely found local natives eating these staple vegetables as they prospered in the valley’s climate.

As an educational opportunity, more then 50 students from the Kingston High School Ecology and Biology departments will benefit by having the care of the City Hall Victory Garden as a part of their curriculum. At the end of the season, small token boxes of our harvest will be shared with all of the local food pantry’s and soup kitchens in the city of Kingston; giving thanks to those who give tirelessly to the community and offering a hand through the patience, grace and goodness of healthy locally grown foods.

A rain barrel display in the corner area next to our garden will capture some of City Hall’s storm water to reuse in our Victory Garden all season long.  By hand watering as much as possible, we will be saving approximately 1300 gallons of water that otherwise would come from our precious water supply.

Many thanks are in order today in making this project a success. Through their efforts, gardening in the city of Kingston has the opportunity to no longer be viewed as just a hobby or a fancy. Instead, we are watching the return of gardening to its roots as an important part of our daily lives all year round.

My personal thanks to:

My beautiful family rooted in Maine and to the one I’ve created in Kingston. Many thanks to my husband Larry Grenadier and son Charlie James.

To my partners in community organizing and cohorts at the Kingston Land Trust, Arthur Zaczkiewicz and Julie and Steve Noble.

To Mayor James Sottile for his enthusiasm, support and vision with this and our future garden endeavors.

To Kathy Janeczek of the City Clerk’s office for her patience and coordinating efforts.

To Evy Larios, the city of Kingston’s Beautification Coordinator for her input, support and all of her years of effort in making Kingston beautiful.

To Ralph Swenson and Alan Adin from the City of Kingston Engineering Department.

To our City Council and especially Alderman Bill Reynolds who has been an enormous support to citizens taking on leadership roles in the community.

To all of the custodial staff at Kingston City Hall for their help in maintaining the grounds and working with us to coordinate all of our watering needs.

To the students from the Kingston High School Ecology and Biology Departments and Ecology and Biology teachers Joann Dayton, Victoria Kallen and Alissa Steyer.

To Marie Anderson, principal of the Kingston High School.

To Jesica Pasqual of Phillies Bridge Farm for her guidance, support soil and seeds.

To Farmer Dan Guenther from the Brooks Farm Project for his tenacity and wisdom in helping communities to start more local organic farming practices.

To Hugh Cummings of Hugh-Name-It Builders for the beautiful cedar log raised bed and generous donation of cedar lumber.

To Ken Green and the Hudson Valley Seed Library who provided some of the heirloom seeds the students will plant in May.

To Allyson Levy and Scott Serrano of Hortus Conslusus for their guidance and support.

To Cornell Cooperative Extension and their Master Gardeners Program for their input and advice.

To Adam’s Fairacre Farm for their generous soil donation and their dedication to local farms.

To Laura Conklin and the Boys and Girls Club who will provide our garden with artwork and care.

To Dee Pascaul and Vic Melville from Fruitful Harvest Farm, the areas own organic CSA (community supported agriculture) out on Sawkill Road for their soil contribution and support.

My dear friends and committed Kingstonians  Jennifer McKinley-Rakov and Jennifer Schwartz-Berky.

To those who have made an enormous contribution to our community and who have offered their knowledge and experience inspiring me in this work: Ed Ford, Lowell Thing, Kevin McEvoy and Barbara Epstein, Ev Mann, Peter Wexler, Julie Hedrick, Carl Frankel, Mark and Sharron Green, Melissa Everett,  Jane and Paul Keller, Ann Loeding, Lynn Woods, Diane Reeder, Micheal Berg, Meghan Weiss, Sandy Thompson-Hopgood, Cathy Stevens, Barbara Sarah, Bob Jones and all at the Coach House Players, Adell and Ralph Calvecchio, the Community (formerly known as the Bruderhof) and Amy Poux.

To Ulster Savings Bank, who so generously have provided office space for the Kingston Land Trust.

The Kingston Times for their support from the very beginning in covering many of our projects for almost four years of community service work.

To Pat Metheny, Larry Grenadier  and all of those who donated their time and energy to our recent fundraiser for the Victory Garden Project and Kingston Land Trust. Your generous donations helped to make this garden grow.

To Roger Dorion from ‘Eat The View’ who helped to inspire our current administration to grow an organic garden at the White House in Washington, DC.

To our children and elders and to the newly active citizens that year by year come forward to offer themselves to our community.

I’ll leave you this morning with a beautiful old proverb,
‘As the Garden grows, so does the gardener’.

Please share in our ceremony this morning by taking a handful of soil to spread over the garden to symbolize diversity, our collective collaboration and a prosperous harvest this year.

Thank you.

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