Volunteers cultivate a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables in a community garden

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A community garden grows in Central Islip.

Begun 10 years ago, the garden – tucked away in a section of Islip Town’s Central Islip Recreation Center on Clayton Street – is tended and maintained by a dedicated team of eight volunteers who cultivate a cornucopia of beets, carrots, strawberries and other organic treats.

“Everything from asparagus to zucchini and everything,” said Nadja Farooq, 51, of Central Islip, who has been responsible and coordinator of the garden for the past three years.

So far, volunteers have grown food there for themselves and their families. Now they are considering a new mission: to donate part of their products to the community.

The program, called Grow and Give, would set aside three of the garden’s 20 flower beds to grow fruits and vegetables that will be donated to community residents in need. and pantry.

“We buy our fresh vegetables here,” Farooq said one day last week after completing a shift in the garden. “And it would be nice to give something to the community as well.”

The garden started out as a place where residents could learn how to grow their own food and teach others the skills. Each volunteer takes responsibility for one or more beds, each measuring 5 feet by 20 feet.

Members pay a monthly membership fee of $ 10 for lawnmower repairs and other expenses, Farooq said, adding that she uses her own money to buy seeds.

But to start helping others, the garden and its workers needed a helping hand.

Without a budget for repairs, some beds had fallen into disrepair, she said. Then came Sheet Metal Workers Local 28, which for two weekends in June sent 10 union members and retirees and $ 6,000 worth of lumber to fix them.

“I’ve always found that volunteering like this and community outreach has a ripple effect,” said Brian Nigro, Business Manager for Local 28, who had also worked on a community garden in his hometown. from Riverhead. “It is always a help. It is sometimes intangible, but it is always a plus for us.”

Last week, Farooq and his team met with Islip’s supervisor, Angie Carpenter, to discuss how the city could help. Carpenter said in an interview with Newsday that officials would consider irrigation improvements and other improvements.

“We are looking at what their needs are. We think we can help them,” Carpenter said, adding that the garden “can become a place of respite for community members and a visible example of what happens when groups community work “with other organizations.

Farooq, a nurse at a private doctor’s office who is raising three sons, said the garden has helped her “feel connected.”

“It makes me feel like I’m doing something really good and selfless, because I’m not getting paid for it,” Farooq said. “And I want to give something else that is positive and [do] something in our community that is not negative. “

She laughs when she mentions her sons, who “think it’s all from the supermarket,” adding that she wants the boys and the others to understand “that little string of green beans is going to become something” with a lot of love and love. care.

“These plants, they don’t really need us,” Farooq said. “But we really need them.”

Green thumbs

The organizers of the Central Islip Community Garden are accepting new volunteers – and wouldn’t hesitate to have a few extra hands to till the soil. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Go down: Volunteers work at different times. Although there are no regular hours, someone is usually present every day, said coordinator Nadja Farooq.
  • Social media: Go to the garden’s Facebook page (search for “Central Islip community gardens”) to send a message to Farooq.
  • Qualifications: Members must be residents of Islip Town and have a green thumb. Members must pay a monthly membership fee of $ 10.


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