Finding Renewal In Soil And Seed

As Jamestown makes the jarring transition from polar vortex to vernal equinox, subtle signs of spring are popping up around the city.

Some of these signs remind us how green and colorful Jamestown will be in just a month or two, and about the close connection between green thumbs, attractive neighborhoods and a healthy city.

One sign is the GROW Jamestown Garden Fair, sponsored by Mike’s Nursery, taking place this Saturday in downtown Jamestown at the Dr. Lillian Ney Renaissance Center. Now in its third year, the fair features exhibits by local landscapers, nurseries and artisans, as well as displays by organizations that use gardening as a means of community improvement.

The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes workshops to assist amateur and veteran gardeners. Chautauqua County Master Gardeners and Food Preservers will give presentations on basic garden planning, seed selection, composting, herb container gardening and food preservation. Architect Steven Sandberg will have a workshop on front yard design and boosting curb appeal. A discussion about community gardens will provide information on getting shared gardens going in Jamestown neighborhoods. And The Home Depot and JCC will offer gardening demonstrations and activities for kids.

Seating for the workshops is limited, so arrive early to sign-up for a spot. To find the full workshop schedule and other details on the fair, visit www.growjamestown.com. And while you’re downtown on Saturday, be sure to stop by the Gateway Train Station for home improvement ideas at Media One’s Home and Recreation Expo.

Growing food in city neighborhoods will also be the focus of a documentary and discussion preceding the GROW Jamestown Garden Fair on Thursday at Jamestown Community College. Starting at 6 p.m. in the Hultquist Library’s Lenna Theatre, Lilah Zautner of the Cuyahoga Land Bank in Cleveland will lead a discussion on urban agriculture, to be followed by a showing of an award-winning film on urban farming called “Growing Cities.”

While Cleveland and other cities have a lot to teach us about urban agriculture, Jamestown has made steady progress on this front in the past few years. Since 2012, resources from the Chautauqua County Health Network and Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) have assisted in the creation of several community gardens, including sites at Washington and Eighth streets, Lakeview and Sixth Street, Allen Street at Chandler, Grant Street and on JCC’s campus off of Curtis Street.

These gardens have helped to demonstrate the potential of community gardens as tools to reuse empty land, beautify streets and engage neighbors in a shared activity. With the exception of some stolen vegetables and animal damage, the experience has been positive, and each season brings opportunities to learn, improve and expand. Expansion became easier last June when the Jamestown City Council approved amendments to the zoning code recognizing community gardening as a legitimate activity when paired with rules that protect gardeners and neighbors.

The pride that comes with gardening, whether it’s a vegetable patch or a decorative front yard garden, has been revealed over the past few years as another powerful tool for neighborhood improvement. Since 2011, the JRC has accepted public nominations for its Front Garden Recognition Program, an effort to acknowledge the value that the city’s gardeners contribute to the city. Last year more than 300 “GROW Jamestown” signs were distributed to nominated gardens and proudly displayed.

This year, the JRC is looking to tweak this program and is exploring the possibility of establishing categories of gardens, having prizes for the best gardens, and engaging a team of volunteers to assist with identifying gardens and distributing signs.

If you have ideas on how to improve the Front Yard Recognition Program or would like to assist with the program this year, or if you have questions about community gardens or the GROW Jamestown Garden Fair, please contact the JRC’s Mary Maxwell at mary@jamestownrenaissance.org, or 664-2477 x224.

Renaissance Reflections is a biweekly feature with news from the front lines of Jamestown’s revitalization. Learn more at jamestownrenaissance.org.