The new King’s College community garden will be located next to the Commuter Parking Lot on Madison Street.
Image by Alison Moyer

An in-progress community garden at King’s College seeks to incorporate Luzerne county residents into keeping the garden flourishing.

Last spring semester, then-seniors Cameron Wyckoff and Raquel Molina pushed the idea of a King’s community garden into full swing. They noticed that the Wilkes-Barre community garden near the South Street Bridge was overgrown and underutilized. It inspired them to make their own community garden that would last and be successful. Later that semester, they had a bake sale to raise funds for supplies to create the garden.

“They wanted to do something good for the whole community. Ideally, the community garden would have been completed before they graduated, but that didn’t happen,” said Keirstin Lasher, a King’s senior and assistant for the community garden project. She inherited their project and is working on completing the garden before she graduates herself next spring.

“Before I came to King’s, I was inside a bubble. I didn’t really notice some of the struggles the community faced, such as a lack of fresh, healthy food. I knew that King’s had the power to do something about it, and I wanted to be a part of it,” added Lasher.

The project already has a set location for the garden. During the spring of 2016, King’s facilities informed the Shoval Center of a currently vacant King’s lot next to the Commuter Parking Lot on Madison Street.

“When facilities came to us with this unused lot, we knew it would be a good spot for the community garden that students were interested in making,” said Maura Modrovsky, Shoval Center Community Outreach Coordinator and one of the directors for the community garden project.

Unfortunately, there are some setbacks with the property itself. “The lot is on a bit of a hill. We will have to level it off to make it a secure place for the raised garden beds. We will most likely raise the area with added soil rather than shoveling and taking away dirt,” explained Lasher.

Furthermore, there is no direct water source on the lot. This is the major obstacle the committee is focusing on right now. They are tossing
around some ideas, such as a rain collection barrel or use of a hooked-up hose.

“Facilities can help with large rain barrels and bring them down to the garden when they are full. However, we would like to get in contact with the owner of the house that is right next to the lot. It would be great if we could use their hose or place the rain barrel underneath their gutter for the rain runoff, “ said Lasher.

The prospect of connecting with people outside the King’s community meets the vision of the community garden committee. Madison Street itself is situated between King’s property and Wilkes-Barre residents. From local Luzerne County elementary and high schools to Wilkes-Barre residents, the garden will incorporate a wide-range of people.

“The main purpose of this new garden is to reach out to the community. We do have a community garden here right outside the Shoval Center with four raised beds, but it is too small to involve a lot of people. The garden mostly benefits Ruth’s Place [a nearby shelter for homeless women] and the King’s food pantry,” said Modrovsky.

The committee plans to involve the King’s College Juvenile Justice Mentoring Program. This program engages local youth in positive activities with King’s students. Likewise, the project aims to reach out to local Kindergarten students.

Lasher explains the reasoning behind the idea: “We want these young adults and children to connect with nature and realize the importance of it. They can realize they are able to sustain their own food. It’s more fulfilling to eat something when you know you grew this out of your own hard work.”

Tom Milillo, a King’s junior and President of the King’s Environmental Awareness and Outdoors Club, attests to the environmental importance of the community garden. “A community garden would benefit the environment by allowing bees and other insects to help the plants grow and spread over the soil.”

Crestwood High School students will also learn about the environment through this project. Modrovsky has easy access to make this collaboration with Crestwood a reality.

“My husband is a biology teacher at Crestwood. His classroom is connected to a green house. We would like to have his students raise seedlings there. They will plant and water them till they are ready to come over to the actual King’s garden,” commented Modrovsky.

Currently, the project has received donations to create the garden. They have the wood needed to build six to eight raised beds. Once the garden is completed, the committee may look towards the local Wilkes-Barre Farmer’s market for more funds.

“We are thinking about selling the vegetables raised in the garden at the Farmer’s market. The money collected would go towards the garden’s upkeep and supplies. Likewise, we are in contact with Wilkes-Barre city to possibly become partners in making the community garden benefit as many people as possible,” said Modrovsky.

Eventually, the community garden plans to provide fresh produce for the public. Additionally, individuals will be able to claim a space in one of the beds and plant their own vegetable seeds for the community.

“For now, creating the community garden and the first few months of the completed garden will be reserved for the King’s community. We will donate the food to local places in-need and maintain the garden ourselves. Soon afterwards, we plan on putting up a basket in the garden with free produce that anyone could have,” said Lasher.

The community garden project committee, faculty, and Environmental Club will work together to make and keep the garden successful.

Milillo looks forward to the collaboration: “We [the Environmental Club] would love to help with any of the work needed to get the job done whether that be putting down soil, planting seeds or acquiring water.”

The committee is looking into becoming an official King’s club itself. “We would like to be eligible for grants from the school. Also, having a club would establish a core group of people to keep the garden up and running, even during the summer with the help of the commuter members,” noted Lasher.

By the end of this fall semester, the beds should be ready to go on the plot and filled with soil.

The goal is to start planting seedlings by late next March and have them bloom by May. They aim to have a working and reliable way to obtain water by this time.

If interested in being involved with the community garden project, contact Keirstin Lasher at keirstinlasher@kings.edu.