The latest in a series of community gardens launched throughout the island was unveiled by the Minister of Public Works, Lieutenant Colonel David Burch, at Southlands on Wednesday (May 26).

The Minister was joined by Ms Jameka Smith (Acting Park Planner), Mr Stephen Furbert (Senior Superintendent) and the Volunteer Community Garden Manager for this newest community garden, Southlands Park Community Garden, Ms Belinda Cameron.

He noted that the well-known Crow Lane Community Garden “established in 1984, continues to flourish to this day and is the perfect example of a project leading to broader Community collaboration that goes well beyond gardening”.

“Crow Lane has been led by Dr Gloria & Mr Rawle Frederick from the very beginning in 1984, an incredible 37 -year journey that demonstrates their passion for gardening. They have also freely shared their knowledge with all those who have sought advice. And so again, I would like to publically thank the Frederick’s for their many years of commitment and dedication to this magnificent project,” said Colonel Burch.

“Like the Frederick’s, the Government is fully committed to doing its part to boost the agriculture industry’s growth. In July 2020, I shared information on community gardens in Bermuda and the plan to establish one in every Parish.”

Another community garden was set up at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Park in February 2020 has also proven to be “very successful”, he added.

“Named ‘Serenity Garden’, it is managed by the husband & wife team of Mr Dave and Mrs Jocille Blakeney, who were unrelenting in pushing for it to happen, and navigated the various Government Departments. To date, all the plots remain assigned, and plot owners continue to reap the benefits of growing their own produce. I want to thank the Blakeney’s again for their commitment to this effort.

“Shortly after the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Park Community Garden, the TN Tatem Community Partners Garden was launched. Boxer Nikki Bascome leads it with assistance from the Blakeney’s and other community partners. That garden is now fully subscribed.

“In November 2020, we launched the community garden located at Avocado Lodge Park in Devonshire. It is managed by the husband and wife team of Gabre and Debbie Swan. Having seen the garden, I find it simply amazing how far it has come along in only five months. It is a testament to their commitment and the old saying, ‘You reap what you sow’.

“With that in mind, I want to remind everyone that minimal experience is required; all that is needed is a love for our community and a desire to feed oneself. It’s also clear that each garden must have a leader – ideally from the neighbourhood – who is passionate about gardening and will be the driving force for success,” said the Minister.

“Towards the end of March, the Department of Parks completed this Community Garden, located here at Southlands Park. I am pleased to announce that all of the 46 12 by 12-foot plots have been assigned. Since that time, the plot owners have been hard at work adding soil amendments and planting their crops. Their hard work is evident as the garden plots look well managed and the plants are strong and healthy.

At this time, I want to thank and show my appreciation to Ms Belinda Cameron for volunteering to take the lead to manage this community garden. You have my sincere thanks,” he added.

“If there are persons interested and willing to lead any of the future community garden sites, please come forward and volunteer so they can become operative in short order. As previously stated, these projects are successful when led by persons with a passion for gardening. Please contact Jameka Smith, Acting Park Planner at the Department of Parks, to express your interest.”

Moving forward, he said the Parks Department “is now clearing and prepping a community garden in Little Head Park, St David’s, with the anticipated completion date in August”.

“Again, I advise you to contact Jameka Smith if you are interested in claiming one of the plots,” he said.

“There are also several new sites on the horizon as we identify areas in other parishes and work to achieve our goal of a community garden in every parish.

“To that end, I must give special thanks to Ms Jameka Smith and Mr Stephen Furbert for their continued assistance in getting the gardens up and running.

“Separately, it must be said that not much land is required to create your own backyard garden. We know this from the number of requests we’ve had for mulch from Marsh Folly post-COVID lockdown. So much so that, at times, we have delivered truckloads of mulch to Serenity, Tatem, and several other community collection neighbourhood sites such as Purvis Primary, Government Gate, Devonshire Community Garden, and Death Valley Field.

“To support home gardeners, we will deliver to other parts of the island as well. Members of the public need only speak to their Member of Parliament. They will make the necessary arrangements for mulch to be delivered to a community drop location in your neighbourhood.

“Anyone can help themselves to the mulch, or if they choose – they can collect it from Marsh Folly – 24 hours a day – follow the signs – it is literally at the entrance to Marsh Folly – and it’s free.”

In closing, Col Burch urged private landowners who have unused land plots that may be suitable for a community garden to consider creating one, “similar to the one organized by MP Michael Weeks in Friswell’s Hill”.

“Again, the Department of Parks will be more than willing to lend a hand in getting it organized,” he said.

“I live near Lighthouse Hill, it is always amazing to see how that project has developed from an overgrown, weed-infested piece of land to the spectacular garden it is today. I also note the benefit to the community of having neighbours interacting and working positively together.

“We are greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm that flows from these announcements towards getting involved in growing one’s own produce. We shall continue to identify sites where community gardens can be established and work with communities to make them a success.”