Rotterdam aims to welcome growers

Life on Hamburg Street may soon incorporate elements from Rotterdam’s agrarian past.

Life on Hamburg Street may soon incorporate elements from Rotterdam’s agrarian past.

An effort is under way to establish both a free-to-the-public community garden and a farmers market in the commercial corridor. Members of the Hamburg Street Merchants Association are planning to host the market in the parking lot of the Rotterdam Senior Center later this year, while the Bridge Christian Church has offered about an acre of land for residents to grow vegetables a couple of blocks away.

“Everything is kind of fitting together like a puzzle,” said the Rev. James Bookhout, Bridge Christian’s pastor and a member of the merchants association.

Starting next week, Bookhout’s congregation will begin tilling the lawn area behind the church so that it can be divvied up into individual 100-square-foot plots. The church will also fertilize the land for prospective growers and provide seeds for those who need them; Carman Hardware donated about $200 worth of seed packets for the garden effort.

“All people really have to do is stake their piece of land out; we’ll fertilize and cultivate it,” he said.

Everything else, however, will be up to them. Bookhout hopes the community garden will bring more residents to the Hamburg Street area to see what his congregation and the area businesses have to offer.

The previous use for the land was for overflow parking. Bookhout said the plots — he estimated about 30 of them could fit on the property — will put otherwise vacant land to good use.

“It’ll make it a whole lot easier for us, too,” he said. “We won’t have to cut the grass.”

So far, the church has already signed up a half-dozen gardeners interested in growing this season. Bookhout said there’s been plenty of interest in the plots and he anticipates using most of the land during the growing season.

“With the challenging economy, the high cost of vegetables in the stores and the threat of pesticides, we feel this would be another way to bring together the Highbridge community,” he said.

Once a town dominated by agriculture, most of Rotterdam became mostly suburban during the 1950s. The town hasn’t had either a community garden or farmers market in recent memory.

Rotterdam Planner Peter Comenzo said members of the merchants association approached the town about establishing the market. The group would need a seasonal sale permit for the farmers market, but an application hasn’t been filed with the town yet.

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