Port Chester Resident Launches Community Gardens




Weber Community Garden gardeners

Port Chester resident and community advocate Alex Payan has launched Port Chester Community Gardens (PCCG), a registered public charity in New York State. The goal is to help break down barriers to food access, healthy eating and environmental sustainability while promoting volunteerism and civic engagement.

“As a resident of Port Chester, I have enjoyed helping members of my community gain access to fresh-grown produce through the development of Weber Community Garden,” he says. “I’m proud to be part of the team that transformed vacant land into sustainable gardening space, thanks to the Port Chester Housing Authority.”

Low-income focus

According to Payan, PCCG will use highly collaborative and member-driven efforts to promote access to locally grown food, inform the community about healthy eating and sustainable living, and reuse vacant or underused land, all through the operation of community gardens as well as advocacy and education about their benefits.

In a partnership with the Port Chester Housing Authority, PCCG will oversee the transformation of vacant plots of land into sustainable gardening space, he says.

“By supporting food security and financial savings for individuals, especially the unemployed and those with low incomes, we will equip local housing authority residents with 29 garden beds. That will enable residents to grow their own organic vegetables and herbs, thus supplementing their food supply.”

He cites a study called “Hunger in the Town of Rye,” which found that 11 to 13 percent of town residents are hungry every day, and 85 to 90 percent of them live in the Village of Port Chester. Payan says it’s especially important that residents in the housing authority, who are among the poorest citizens in Rye, have healthy food that they can provide for themselves.

“Our goals are to grow food and forge new community bonds and relationships through mutual hard work,” he says. “We’ll offer neighborhood youth a place to develop and grow through hands-on learning, so they can later share their knowledge of healthy and sustainable living. Port Chester Community Gardens will encourage food, social and environmental sustainability through practice, awareness and advocacy in public policy supporting community gardens.”

A sustainable model

Weber Community Garden was the first of the Port Chester Housing Authority community gardens and a model for future gardens. Established in April 2016, it covers more than 2,000 square feet, with 19 raised beds, four composting bins, a shed full of garden tools, two spigots and a wheelbarrow.

“It is a robust, volunteer-run garden where residents do more than grow food—they grow community,” Payan says.

Last year the Port Chester Housing Authority received a grant from the Westchester County Board of Legislators to construct two additional community gardens at their senior housing locations. Then in April 2018, Drew and Terrace Community Gardens were established, each with five elevated beds, a vertical shed, a 150-gallon storage bench, garden tools and one spigot.

“With the help of community partners and donor support, Port Chester Community Gardens will act as a beacon of permanence and a reassurance that the gardens continue to thrive,” Payan says.

Future plans include tours, classes, a farmers’ market, a composting program, community bottle gardens, Earth Day festivities, a fall cleanup, an internship program and a scholarship fund.

For more information or to volunteer or make a donation, contact Alex Payan at 914.623.3077 or email PortChesterCommunityGardens@gmail.com. Visit Port Chester Community Gardens online at PCCommunityGardens.org or on Facebook.

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