Digging in the Delaware dirt brings out the beauty of a Wilmington neighborhood

The task before them was tremendous. Shovel, transport and level 60 cubic yards of composted soil. The pay off was worth it.

But more than 100 volunteers did just that with smiles on their faces at Rodney Reservoir to expand the community garden, making it the largest urban agriculture project in the City of Wilmington Saturday.

The community garden is part of a revitalization effort known as “West Side Grows Together”; it is a collaboration with Bright Spot Ventures and several other area partners.

During the day, some volunteers stayed in the street working down the soil area of nearly 5 parked cars, some hustled up and down the stairs moving the soil and others slowly jotted across the land with a wheel barrel or trash can containing the soil to fill 24 newly raised bed plots.

Meredith Stuart, volunteer coordinator of West End, said the neat part about the event is that it tied into real issues of the community while addressing the goals of West Side Grows Together.

“Through Bright Spot Ventures, it is employing youth that aged out of foster care and they are also learning marketable skills,” said Stuart. “A big part of the West Side Grows Together goals is to provide work and opportunity for youth and it also ties into goals for providing nutritious and locally-grown food.”

Sixteen of the new plots will be managed by the staff of Bright Spot Ventures and the other 8-by-10 plots will be utilized by families interested in growing their own fruits and vegetables.

The event was a family affair for neighbor and community gardener Tonya Baynes who was in attendance with her son, daughter and husband.

Baynes began gardening at the reservoir last year after an unsuccessful attempt of growing tomatoes in her backyard due to lack of sun. Since getting a plot, she has brought home a smorgasbord of vegetables including beets, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower and cucumber. She estimates that she spent about $30 total for all of the necessary supplies to maintain the plot.

A native of New York who was raised on can goods and processed foods, she said it is important for her to teach her children how to make smart choices with food such as portion size and ingredients.

“If you can’t pronounce that and mommy can’t pronounce it, then we don’t need to eat it,” said Baynes.

In addition to making healthy food choices, community garden coordinator Ryan Welsh, uses his plot to teach his son who he gardens with the importance of hard work.

“Is there a better way to show a kid that you reap what you sow than to actually reap what you sow,” said Welsh.

He said it’s been exciting watching the garden grow from 12 plots since its creation in 2011 to a total of 61 plots.

In the future, he would like to make some additions to the garden such as fruit trees and bushes to outline the garden as well as benches and a message board to display what everyone is growing. There are already talks about implementing a more efficient composting system. 

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