Ed. — The cover story from the Sunday, May 23, print edition.
BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
GREEN RUN — Residents came together last month at an open field near Dahlia Drive, where a community vegetable garden will now take root.
The celebratory planting of the garden was coordinated by Green Run Homes Association with the help of the Oceanside Lions Club and Lynnhaven River Now, and the food grown here will be donated to area food pantries.
This is the first year for the garden, said Heidi Daniels, manager of the association. The goal is to bring the community together, improve quality of life and create alliances with area organizations.
Seeds and plants were donated by the association and the other organizations. Volunteers on Saturday, May 15, set out tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, rutabaga and melons, as well as some herbs and jalapeno peppers. Some onion bulbs and seeds were also planted, and Lynnhaven River Now donated raspberry bushes and marigold plants.
About 50 volunteers came out to work, and the association’s maintenance crews had already plowed the vertical beds and prepared them for planting.
Some of the volunteers, including Mayor Bobby Dyer, were novices at gardening, but he didn’t mind the work because it was helping to grow community relations as well as vegetables.
“This is something that builds and grows,” Dyer said during the event, “and this is how we want community to be in Virginia Beach.”
Others – including City Councilmember Michael Berlucchi, who represents the Rose Hall District – are veteran vegetable gardeners. In his own gardening, Berlucchi said he’s moved toward native plants in recent years. Berlucchi, whose district includes Green Run, said the community garden project is rewarding because it’s a joint effort among neighbors.
“Neighbors are working together, and it’s about agriculture, sustainability and something that we all love – food,” Berlucchi said while planting a squash plant in the new garden.
Emma Millarez, 6, said that she liked eating tomatoes, and she enjoyed working with all of the plants.
Millarez was working with her great-grandmother Terri Walsh, a 35-year resident of Green Run and a gardening enthusiast, who showed her how to mulch to hold in moisture and keep out weeds.
“I’m putting out mulch now,” Millarez said as she pulled a handful of mulch from a container and spread it around the plant.
Homer Cook, president of the Oceanside Lions Club, said the idea for the garden developed when he and Daniels connected at another community event. His club, whose service area includes Green Run, was seeking ways to have a more visible presence. He’s also an experienced gardener, and this seemed like a good fit.
“If you can grow it, then you can get a little bit of food going and get the community involved,” Cook said. “Then it’s a good thing.”
Lynnhaven River Now Executive Director Karen Forget said that she’d also like to work with the association to plant trees and a pollinator garden as well as to coordinate trash pick-ups. They’re talking about other projects, too.
“I’m excited about the partnership,” Forget said.
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