Growing Community: Local neighborhood embraces shared garden concept
By Mark Ambrogi
When Bobbie Sutton moved into the River Run neighborhood in Noblesville, she was surprised that many neighbors didn’t know each other.
“Nobody knew each other’s name, and I’m sorry, I’m not that type of person,” said Sutton, who previously lived in a more rural part of Hamilton County before downsizing. “Within three months, I knew more people than most of the neighbors that had been here for several years. I’m a social person.”
One thing she thought would bring neighbors closer together is to have a community garden.
“First, they have to understand the concept of a community garden. They learn that they share the work, they share the harvest,” Sutton said. “Just because they weren’t there helping us plant doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy it. If they go down and pick a weed, they can help themselves. Don’t be a pig and don’t take everything, but if you see something is going to waste, then pick all you want.”
Built over a weekend last month by neighborhood residents, four raised planter boxes, measuring 40 inches by 8 feet, now sit at the entrance of the subdivision and are now full with green beans, various types of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, collard greens, kale, chard and more. Sutton said the group plans to grow spinach and lettuce earlier next year.
Most of the plants were donated from Hamilton Southeastern Future Farmers of America.
“They had a plant sale, and everything they had left over they donated to the community garden,” Sutton said. “Since we were late getting ours planted we got pretty lucky.”
Sutton’s husband, Bob, retired from Hamilton County Parks Dept. in June.
“Bob’s expertise is construction, so he definitely helped with the beds,” Sutton said.
Andrew Fritz with the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District evaluated the area in December and helped draw up a plan.
On River Run’s behalf, Sutton applied for and was awarded a $500 grant to install a community garden from Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development, a Noblesville-based organization that focuses on improving lives and building community in Hamilton County.
Sutton said the grant was a big help because the River Run Homeowners Association does not have the extra funds to cover expenses for a garden.
“I’m sure enough neighbors would not have liked the idea of their fees being spent on something that’s never been done before,” Sutton said. “We hope to instill healthy eating and respect for nature into the youngest generation at the same time. All members of the neighborhood are invited to help build and plant the garden, care for it as the season progresses and share in the harvest at the end of the summer, do fall clean up and start all over again next summer.”
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Doug White, vice president of the River Run Homeowners Association, likes that the garden is large enough to benefit everyone.
“Some people in our neighborhood may not have the time or knowledge on how to start a garden,” White said. “For the people that have gardens, more often than not, they have more than they know what to do with. The community garden allows everyone to chip in what they can, and everyone can benefit by just taking what they need and helping a little to keep it up. It’s pretty easy to put together when everyone helps.”
White said Bobbie Sutton spearheaded the garden by bringing it to the HOA Board.
“Bobbie was really passionate about it and found local organizations to help fund it with supplies to build and plant the vegetables,” he said.
White said building the garden was a way of getting connected.
“When we built ours we would laugh and make fun of each other,” White said. “It’s a chance to have conversations with people you don’t normally get a chance to talk with. I think it’s a great concept. I would love to see other neighborhoods start their own community gardens. I think they would like it, too.”
Kim Pershing, who has lived in River Run since 2010, got involved with the garden through Sutton, her neighbor.
“I think the garden will bring people together, giving them the opportunity to get to know each other more than just a wave as they drive by,” Pershing said. “Working together on a shared project, seeing the growth and sharing the success, that’s community.”
Pershing said the work went so fast when everyone pitched in, and it was fun.
“No one had to overdo it too much,” Pershing said. “The sprinkler system ensures our veggies get watered enough. The raised beds make for removable structures. It’s great. We all did an awesome job.”
Jeff Niles, a homeowners association board member, said there was a good turnout for constructing the garden boxes and the planting day.
“This is a new asset to our neighborhood then, not merely for the utility of providing some fresh herbs and veggies, but also for meeting one another, planning with one another, weeding, watering, checking the progress, all in a shared and constructive community endeavor,” Niles said. “And kids will see this and the work we put into it, and participate themselves in it, learning the skill of rudimentary gardening, as some adults, myself included, learn from scratch as well.”