Bangor’s Coe Park will soon have two raised garden beds available for the neighborhood to maintain and grow food together.
Bangor City Council approved the two garden beds measuring 4 feet by 20 feet on Monday. Food and Medicine, a Bangor-based nonprofit, spearheaded the idea in partnership with the Together Place Peer Run Recovery Center and Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness to encourage people to get outside, get involved in their community with their neighbors and eat healthy.
Collective gardens differ from Bangor’s community garden on Essex Street in that residents have to pay rent for a spot in a community garden and tend only to the crops in their designated areas. Collective gardens are maintained by anyone in a neighborhood who wants to participate, decisions about the garden are made as a group and the resulting crops are distributed throughout the neighborhood.
The gardens are created to provide healthy food to a community, teach participants new skills, encourage community building, promote outdoor exercise and give people opportunities to learn about and advocate for food security.
“It’s a nice way to provide the opportunity for folks to grow their own fresh, healthy produce as well as get to know your neighbors and address social isolation,” said Johnny Sanchez, Food and Medicine volunteer coordinator. “For folks who may be more affluent, it gives them the chance to give back to their community in a meaningful way and help their neighbors.”
The social isolation the COVID-19 pandemic brought further emphasized the need for something that would bring neighbors together and foster interaction and cooperation within a community, the nonprofit’s collective gardening guide said.
The two beds in Coe Park, which borders Everett Street and runs between Ohio Street and the Kenduskeag Stream, will be Bangor’s first collective garden for a general neighborhood. The Coe Park neighborhood was chosen because it’s a lower-income area of Bangor, McKay said.
In 2016, Food and Medicine built its first collective gardens at the Bangor Area Recovery Network, the Eastern Maine Labor Council’s office in Brewer and Crestwood Place, a Bangor Housing low-income apartment complex for seniors and disabled residents.
Since then, approximately 440 people participate in Food and Medicine’s 22 collective gardens throughout the region, most of which are in low-income, subsidized housing complexes and recovery centers
If all goes well this year, the neighborhood collective garden program may expand next year to include Talbot Park in Bangor.
“Growing food and watching things grow is miraculous and wonderful and uplifting,” said Jack McKay, Food and Medicine’s director. “We’re an organization that’s about people being able to have agency, empowerment and a voice in situations where they haven’t had it before. To provide those things and watch people take hold of it is a real gift.”