The Community Victory Gardens located on a 415-acre Hopewell preserve began growing produce to help provide nearby residents with healthy food options and support struggling residents in need.

St. Michaels Farm Preserve, part of the D&R Greenway Land Trust, is home to the victory gardens that have been thought about since the Hopewell preserve was created 10 years ago.

Local farmers approached the president and CEO of D&R Greenway Linda Mead about the gardens.

Community Victory Gardens at St. Michaels Farm Preserve
Local volunteers tend to the six designated charity plots on St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell.

“A few of us were talking earlier this year about how the time had come for a community garden,” farm manager Bill Flemer said in a press release. “With the pandemic keeping people at home, seeking healthy ways to eat and a need for ‘community,’ local organic farmers Bob and Steffi Harris and I approached Linda Mead about our idea.”

“We are all hungry for a sense of belonging, being outdoors and living healthy right now,” Mead said in a press release. “These times hearken back to the Great Depression, when victory gardens provided important sustenance for those who lost jobs or were on limited income, strapped for food. I especially liked the suggestion to include ‘Charity Plots’ where gardeners donate plants, time and harvest to support those in need.”

Six of the 32 garden plots were reserved for charity.

All plots are designated for this first year. Hopewell resident Corinne Egner is managing the schedule for gardeners who have donated plants and seed, and who are contributing their time to weed, water and harvest the produce.

The local vegetables will be donated to the new nonprofit that has emerged at Hopewell’s Aunt Chubby’s Luncheonette, feeding 30 local families identified by local churches.

A charity team helps take care of the charity plots and assists with the delivery of the donated goods.

There are 26 gardeners caring for their own sites and volunteers tending the six charity plots, according to Flemer.

Social distancing guidelines were taken into consideration when the plots were created. Wide pathways, a sanitizing area for gardeners, wearing gloves when using shared tools and following social distancing rules are all used to keep the operation safe.

“We hope that this pilot year is a grand success, proving that even in times of severe stress we can creatively solve problems and come together around common ground,” Mead said.

The site of D&R Greenway’s new Community Victory Gardens once served as a farm to provide food for children who lived at the St. Michaels Orphanage that stood there through World War I and World War II.

The preserve is open to the public for visits while remembering to keep to social distancing guidelines.

For more information, contact Deb Kilmer at dkilmer@drgreenway.org. To learn more about the D&R Greenway Land Trust, visit www.drgreenway.org.