Aug 14, 2012 - By Randy Tucker, Staff WriterIt is an idea that traces its roots to the burgeoning industrial city of Detroit in 1890.The Motor City was the first site of a community garden in the United States, but the movement has grown in communities large and small across America.
Riverton's version of the community garden, located on the eastern edge of the Central Wyoming College campus, is completing its fourth year of service.
"The college provided the land, and the city provides water, mulch and soil amendments," community garden organizer Sherry Shelley said. "We started the garden to enable people who don't have the appropriate space to garden."
A ceremony was held Aug. 8, at the garden to dedicate a "peace pole" built by Doug Newlin.
The square pole sits just a bit west of the garden's storage shed and has a message of peace in English, Spanish and Arabic on three sides, with pegs set aside for prayer bundles or messages on the open side.
"The English and Spanish sides are obvious," Shelley said. "The Arabic side is for a number of Arabic speaking students that attend Central Wyoming College."
The pole was dedicated with a brief message from Scott Ratliff, who the prayer bundle concept and the significance smoke holds in American Indian ceremonies.
Riverton's Laura Coniglio and her daughter, Lea Aldridge, have been gardening at the site since the opening of the garden four years ago.
"Mom and I shared a plot the first year," Aldridge said.
Their participation has grown dramatically as they now work three plots together.
Plots are limited to one individual, but a family can take up to three.
"We have 90 plots and about 90 people working them," Shelley said. "Some plots are shared by two or three people, and others are family plots. It averages about one per person."
Aldridge, who works at Riverton's Sweetwater Garden Co., is an avid gardener.
"It is fun to see how everyone gardens," Aldridge said. "Everyone gardens differently. I love gardens. It is what I do every day."
The Coniglio family has limited garden space at home on Park Street, but the community garden helps them spread their wings.
"We don't have full sun or a big area to grow," Coniglio said. "The city waters three days a week, and there are always tools in the shed you can use. It's a great deal at $35 a plot."
This year Aldridge and Coniglio are growing onions, pumpkins, squash, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.
"A lot of people had salsa gardens," Coniglio said. "They raise onions, peppers and tomatoes."
Coniglio stores her harvest in a variety of ways, canning, dehydrating and freezing produce for the winter months.
"Some people sell their produce at the farmers market, but we use all of ours," Coniglio said.
With the concentrated nature of 90 plots in one small area, there are challenges.
"The powdery mildew is terrible this year," Aldridge said. "My stuff is outgrowing my plot. The pumpkins are out of control and spreading onto other people's plots."
Aldridge often experiments with different plants each year. She had an epic artichoke crop in 2011.
"I had one plant that produced 23 artichokes," Aldridge said. "We had so many we couldn't keep up and froze many of them."
Coniglio and Aldridge plan to take three plots again next summer and are avid fans of the concept. The only suggested improvement came from Aldridge: "Bigger plots would be great."
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