UPPER DARBY >> Blessed are the fruits of Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School, where school officials, township leaders and others this week rolled out a new community garden – the first of its kind in Upper Darby.
Local dignitaries and garden creators Stacey and Sean McNicholl gathered on the school campus Tuesday morning to cut the ribbon to the quarter-acre garden on the back of the property by the corner of Huey and Lansdowne avenues. Volunteers from the Upper Darby Community Outreach Corporation helped pick the first peppers, eggplant and squash in what could ultimately yield upward of 3,000 pounds a season of fresh produce to benefit the Saint Vincent dePaul Society Food Pantry at Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Darby.
“Our passion is urban farming and we wanted to share our passion with our community as lifelong Darby residents,” said Stacey McNicholl. “Community gardens offer a number of benefits including access to fresh fruits and vegetables, educational opportunities through workshops, and probably most importantly, in my perspective, is building a sense of community for Upper Darby.”
The McNicholls planted the initial seeds for the idea with Upper Darby Community Outreach Corporation Executive Director Pastor David Shaheen, and then took it to Bonner and Prendie President John Cooke.
Cooke recalled the initial meetings he had with the McNicholls and Shaheen.
“A couple of months ago when Sean and Stacey came with Pastor Dave with this idea they asked for a plot of land to possibly look at to create a community garden,” he said. “I thought this was an ideal location right on the corner here.”
The groundbreaking happened in early May with help from sponsors Executive Tree Care and Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure to provide the mulch and some tree trimming to allow adequate sunshine on the garden. Some of the other first crops that were planted at the garden include microgreens, pumpkins, okra and tomatoes.
In addition to the lush view of rows of food, local artwork also will be on display.
Cooke said the garden will provide endless opportunities to the school and community.
“We’re looking for even more opportunities to get (students) involved with our Christian Service Project to do some community service, and our science department, which is also really interested in getting involved here at the garden,” said Cooke. “It’s not just a place to grow vegetables and provide food for the community, but it’s also an opportunity to really showcase some art work and beatify our campus.”
The McNicholls said they wish to provide more community gardens throughout the township, to make a network of gardens. With no immediate plans on how to expand the idea, Sean McNicholl mentioned expanding on the Bonner and Prendie land to allow people to buy a plot and harvest their own veggies.
Speaking on behalf of Mayor Tom Micozzie, Upper Darby Director of Leisure Services John McMullan said the township is excited about the ideas the McNicholls’ have generated for this still blooming area of community development.
“The mayor is certainly committed to working with them and the concept of urban gardens in the township,” said McMullan. “It’s so nice to see so many community partners out to provide support to both Stacey and Sean, I look forward to working with them as we move forward.”