Last night the marquee at the Paramount Theatre belonged to the Peekskill Community Garden. As part of a fundraising event organized by the garden’s board members, the movie “Fresh” was shown to those who came out to support the community project. The film focuses on re-inventing America’s current agricultural system and offers ideas and education from farmers, business people and others with sustainable alternative solutions to help guide farming away from its current industrial mode.
The event was held to raise money for the garden’s needs, which include drainage construction and a fence to contain the area from animals. The future location of the garden is a flat half-acre field which was donated by the city. It is located on the side of Route 6 near the Forest View development.
As part of the fundraiser, sponsors such as the Raw Life Food Co-op and Hilltop Hanover Farms set up educational displays and food samples for attendants. Other sponsors participated by donating prizes for the evening’s raffle.
Free fresh breads and artisan cheeses were paired with samples of wine for event goers to enjoy while they mingled before the start of the film. Homemade brownies were sold for those seeking a sweet treat, and of course, there was popcorn for movie-time as well.
As the evening progressed, the Paramount’s modestly sized lobby filled up with people eager to hear more about the status of the garden, and the hum of chatter and laughter filled the room.
The community garden project, an idea conceptualized over two years ago, has since been making slow and steady progress toward becoming a reality.
“It’s a big project,” said board member Scott Halfmann. “Ever since its inception, it’s been a lot of hard work. Now that we have the land, the drainage is a matter of concern. We need more volunteers. We’re going to get there because we keep persevering. We keep making the call and the community keeps responding.”
Once the garden is underway individuals will pay a small fee for an allotted plot of land, which they will be responsible for maintaining for the season. There will also be a portion of the garden dedicated as a “Children’s Garden.”
“We want to encourage the community to be self-sufficient and live off the land,” said Joann Boniello, who is a garden board member and one of the event’s organizers. “It’s so much healthier.”
Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster was in attendance at the fundraiser and acknowledged people’s desire to “get back to the soil,” and said that the community garden “will give people the ability to reacquaint themselves with fresh food.”
“It’s important not to lose the perspective that our food comes from the earth,” said Foster.
Foster also said the city would continue to support the garden, and that they were aware of the fencing issues the project was facing.
“We’ll work with them on that,” said Foster.
Guests began to trickle into the theatre’s main room a little before 8 p.m. to listen to the entertainment provided by singer/songwriter Marc Von Em as he played guitar and sang.
After the short set of live music, Billiam van Roestenberg, the guest speaker for the event, took to the stage. Van Roestenberg, an advocate for natural and organic farming as well as the owner of Liberty View Farms, an all-natural apple orchard and farm five minutes outside of New Paltz in Highland, NY, spoke to the crowd about community and agriculture.
“It’s about re-connecting on a local level,” Roestenberg told the audience. “No one of us can do it alone, but if we help one another we can do great things really easily.”
Roestenberg also noted the benefits of networking, or as he referred to it, “cross-pollinating,” through the use of social media. He cited easy techniques to gain involvement such as emailing weekly community newsletters or blogging.
“It’s a lot of work,” said the farmer, “but it all adds up.”
To stay updated on the progress of the Peekskill Community Garden check out their Facebook page. For more information on how to get involved or to volunteer, contact Joann Boniello at 914-434-3678 or email PeekskillCommunityGarden@gmail.com.