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Digging in at Plattsburgh Community Garden

Ryan and Jessica Jonesford work at their Plattsburgh Community Garden plot.

Ryan and Jessica Jonesford work at their Plattsburgh Community Garden plot. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

PLATTSBURGH — Last year, Jessica Jonesford arrived at the garden in the evening, eyeing her plot and deciding what to harvest for dinner. She had an overabundance of tomatoes. This year, she’s also planting peppers, strawberries, chives, beans, broccoli and carrots.

She lived in an apartment in the City of Plattsburgh and was thrilled to learn about the Plattsburgh Community Garden, which was created in 2009 to create allotment-style gardens in and around Plattsburgh.

The goal was to build a community and provide an enjoyable and safe place for people to grow crops, gather as friends and learn gardening techniques.

“We definitely enjoy it,” said Ryan Jonesford. “You get fresh produce and pride in having your own garden.”

Doug Butdorf, chair of the Plattsburgh Community Garden Group, moved to the area in 2005 looking for a community garden. His grandfather grew up in the Great Depression and advocated large family gardens. Butdorf learned gardening from him, as well as his mother.

He was frustrated that there was no community garden in Plattsburgh and complained for three years before gathering a group and creating one.

“We had to jump through a lot of hoops,” Butdorf said. “It used to be illegal to grow food on property not owned by you.”

The Plattsburgh Community Garden was first established at Melissa L. Penfield Park in the City of Plattsburgh. Today, the group has 54 plots between Penfield and the Mary Hulbert Memorial Garden on Route 3 in Plattsburgh.

Marsha Lawrence has a plot at Penfield. She’s gardened there for three years and says she appreciates what she has learned from others and that she’s excited about her fresh Swiss chards.

Plots run $25 for 100 square feet at Penfield and $50 for 300 square feet at Hulbert. The fee covers soil, water, the use of community tools, training and more.

This creates an opportunity for people in the city without space and forms a “micro-city,” Butdorf said.

“You are responsible for your plot and you have neighbors and have to work within a community,” he said.

People of all ages spend time at the gardens, something the area needs more of, he said.

Gardening can be therapeutic and meditative, especially weeding, which doesn’t take much thought and can be a welcome reprieve from a stressful, intellectually taxing workday — plus, “at the end of the day, you get really good tomatoes,” as Butdorf noted.

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