ILION – Having now attained 501C3 status, Ilion Community Garden is going strong and on the hunt for supporters.
“The more people that are involved, the easier it will be for all,” said Amanda Norton, founder of Ilion Community Garden.
The help Norton seeks is not necessarily only help in physically planting and tending a garden, which, she said, may be what is keeping some from getting involved.
“We need thoughts. We need opinions and ideas. We need help planning and fundraising and networking. And there are any number of little things along the way that someone else may be better suited for than myself, or know of a friend who could help us out,” Norton said. “Any challenges we face are better solved together. I’m not going to always have the best answer to everything.”
“We really encourage everyone who is even possibly interested in helping out or has an idea for the garden, to just come to one of our meetings,” she said.
Ilion Community Garden’s next meeting will be Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6 p.m. at the Ilion Community Church, located in Central Plaza’s Arc Mall.
Originally, village officials and Norton looked at lots around the village made vacant through the FEMA flood buyout program to contain the public garden. A piece of property at the corner of Second and John streets looked particularly promising, Norton said.
Plans for that location ended up falling through as the result of stiff FEMA regulations.
“It was going to be super challenging to have a garden there for a number of reasons,” Norton explained. “According to FEMA regulations, we couldn’t have any sort of permanent structure. That meant no fence, no rain barrels, no raised beds. When we first started looking at that spot, we didn’t realize how strict FEMA lots would be.”
Then, in November, village officials and Norton finally settled on an ideal location for the garden: the park running parallel to East Main Street. And Norton is very excited about it.
“It’s going to be great!” She enthused. “We can have fences to keep out deer and rabbits, rain barrels, maybe a work shed. There’s enough space there for fruit trees and berry bushes in addition to raised beds. It will need some prep work, like taking down some of the existing trees, and there’s a little bit of a slope so we may have to get creative there, but I really think it’s going to be great.”
Norton and her small committee have been hard at work fundraising and drumming up support since the garden’s inception in the spring of 2018. Now, with 501C3 status, the group will be eligible for grants as well. Norton said she’s working on figuring out a fundraising goal.
“I had everything priced out for the Second Street location, but now I have to refigure it all for the new location,” she said.
The plan is to get things started this spring, perhaps with a few raised beds, and expand from there over time, Norton said. The group has big plans which include making the garden handicap accessible, having a website, hosting gardening workshops and running the garden as a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) model in which residents can actively share in the gardening work or buy into the garden in exchange for a share of the produce.
Following Thursday’s meeting, the group will meet again Feb. 19 and March 19.
For more information, check out the Ilion Community Garden Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/iliongrows/