Monday, July 19, 2010

A sunny afternoon at Catskill Perennials

Located in the hills of the Beechwoods area of Sullivan County, Catskill Perennials provides a great mix of locally grown plants. Offering a mix of the newest varieties and old standards, the garden setting is filled with shrubs, herbs and grasses. Plants for specialty gardens such as those to attract butterflies, feature native plant and or create a shady respite are marked by handmade signs.

These photos are from a recent sunny afternoon. The flowers were all in bloom and we could resist taking a few shots!

Catskill Perennials is located at Tonjes Farm Dairy, 163 Tonjes Road in Callicoon. Just two miles from the village of Jeffersonville. The garden is open May through September. Contact Mary Tonjes at (845) 482-4514 for more information.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Community Gardens Take Root in the Catskills

Corn and cabbages thrive at the Walton Community Garden.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Morgan

A new aspect of the local food movement has come to our region. Dozens of community vegetable gardens have developed in recent years with support of neighbors of every stripe. From the largest towns to hamlets in rural valleys, these projects are proving to be an important means of gathering neighbors around food. As Halcott Center Community Gardener Sheila Reynertson puts it, “Community gardens are an great way to catch up with neighbors and learn from each other. We tend to so much more than our vegetables when we get the chance to garden together.”

Long a presence in urban landscapes, community gardens serve rural communities by creating places for children to learn about nutrition and for adults to share skills. Many of the Catskills gardens have been headed by individuals with farming backgrounds. Lisa Wujnovich of Mountain Dell Farm helped start the Hancock Community Garden last year. Rebecca Morgan grew up on a dairy farm in Walton and started a garden there last year in her father’s hayfield. In Halcott Center, the DiBenedetto and Johnson families have been donating lumber, compost and time on the tractors from their dairies to the community gardens just down the road.

Transplanting with help from Barthel’s Farm Market staff at the Aiyana Community Garden in Ellenville. Photo courtesy of Jen Pineda

Keeping rural communities healthy is another focus of many garden projects. In Ellenville, local not-for-profit Family of Ellenville has been enhancing the Aiyana Garden for three years. The garden project adds to their many human service efforts including transitional living and employment programs as well as adolescent services. The garden has also donated produce to local food pantries. In Oneonta, the Parent-Teacher Organization at the Greater Plains Elementary School has been working with a group of parents to develop a garden on the school grounds. High school students from the Walton Central School are growing vegetables for sale at the local Big M Supermarket. Some projects have received nutrition-focused funding from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Eat Well-Play Hard campaign.

A unique approach to weed control at the Halcott Center Community Garden.
Photo courtesy of Sheila Reynertson

The quantity of these projects has become significant in just a few years. In Greene County, four gardens have been supported through the local Cornell Cooperative Extension Office. Sullivan Renaissance has supported the development of gardens in Hurleyville, Loch Sheldrake, Livingston Manor, Liberty, Monticello and Woodbourne. The Sullivan County projects are engaging students and faculty from Sullivan County Community College, staff and residents at the Federation for the Homeless, and village community development corporations. Such collaborations demonstrate a garden’s potential to make connections between our local food system and new members of our communities.

Help us create a complete list of the garden projects in the region! Email Challey Comer at or call (607) 865-7090 to share details about your garden.