Growing Our Green Thumb


CCHN Works To Make Jamestown A Greener, Healthier Community -One Garden At A Time

By Jason Sample
Contributing Writer

Don’t be surprised if you hear and see a lot more about gardening in Jamestown this spring.

Thanks to an effort spearheaded by the Chautauqua County Health Network (CCHN), the city is quickly on its way

Community gardens are becoming more and more prevalent in Jamestown thanks to the projects connected with the Creating Healthy Places initiative. Above, two residents from Lutheran Social Service’s Lutheran Senior Housing program display one of their garden projects from 2011. (Photo courtesy of Lutheran Social Services)

to growing a green thumb. During the past year, the agency has developed comprehensive gardening program with the help of its Creating Healthy Places (CHP) initiative, which is a grant from the New York State Department of Health that focuses on various ways to decrease chronic disease. As a result, dozens of participating local agencies and organizations are now actively involved in a gardening and attend a quarterly gardening committee meeting.

“We’ve been getting together in these committee meetings for a year-and-half now,” explains Kerry Mihalko, who serves as the healthy foods consultant for CHP. “The reason is really to bring community members together that are all working on gardening projects to share ideas and resources.”

In all, Mihalko says at least two dozen different agencies and organizations are already involved in various types of community garden projects, with more expected to join in the coming weeks and months.

“We share skills, we share resources and we share ideas,” Mihalko says. “As we do all this sharing, we can just grow and grow these projects bigger. We also see more and more members of this group and more and more organizations growing gardens and helping with our community garden project too.”

Those groups that are currently involved with the gardening initiative include the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation, Chautauqua Opportunities, Chautauqua County Master Gardeners, the Resource Center, Northside Pride, St. Susan Center, the Joint Neighorhood Project, Jamestown Public Schools, BOCES, Lutheran Senior Housing, St. James, the Foster Grandparents of Chautauqua County, the Southwestern Independent Living Center and Chautauqua County Rural Ministries, along with several others.

In addition to local organizations, residents and businesses are also being encouraged to participate by donating seedlings and other gardening supplies to any of the various projects that are currently underway, and there is no shortage of projects to choose from.

One of the primary gardening projects this year is the Giving Gardens initiative, which benefits the St. Susan Center.

Any resident or business involved with the Giving Garden only needs to donate time, soil and water. The remainder of growing supplies are being provided in Giving Garden Tool Kits, which include items such as seeds, seedlings, growing containers, tomato cages and garden tools. And the end of the growing season, the yield from all the Giving Gardens will be donated to St. Susan Center so the staff can create healthy, fresh dishes for those in need. The supplies are also returned, so that the Giving Garden project can continue in future years.

Thanks to an outpouring of support, the project has already reached full capacity and the first meeting for everyone involved will take place on April 18 at 5:30 p.m. at St. Susan’s.


The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) is also working with CCHN on a number of gardening initiatives. Last month, JRC hosted the first ever Grow Jamestown Garden Fair, featuring various organizations and gardening workshops. Peter Lombardi, the Director of Neighborhood Initiatives for JRC, says the event was well attended and will return next year.

In addition to the garden fair, JRC is also working with CHP and developing a Community Garden model that will eventually be used by various neighborhoods throughout Jamestown.

“In future years as neighborhoods become more interested in the community garden concept, we want there to be models so residents know how to go about locating both public and private land for gardening,” explains Lombardi. “We have three proposed garden sites identified right now, and we’re working on finalizing lease terms and having JRC sponsor the gardens to absolve the landowners liability concerns. We’re hoping to get a couple of these sites up and running by the end of May in time for this year’s gardening season.”

Lombardi adds the JRC will continue to develop partnerships with others involved with CHP. That includes working with BOCES to build raised beds. Lombardi says that JRC would also like to see the gardens as projects that help to beatify neighborhoods. He says the goal is to help people realize the full potential of community gardening as a community revitalization tool.


Students at five area schools in Jamestown will soon be eating locally grown food, grown literally in their own backyards. Love, Ring and Bush Elementary Schools, along with Washington Middle School and Jamestown High School were recently each awarded a $1,000 mini-grant from CHP. The grant money will be used to develop vegetable gardens at each school.

CHP project coordinator Janet Forbes says the project will be made possible thanks to collaboration with the Resource Center.

“One of the challenges for the school gardens was ‘how will they be maintained during the summer?’” Forbes says. “But thanks to involvement from the Resource Center, they said that they have participants who are looking for community service opportunities. As a result, we were able to link them with the school garden project and they will now provide support during the summer.”


The Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation will continue to hold its weekly Farmers’ Market in downtown Jamestown this year and will get assistance from CHP. New this year, the Farmers Market will have an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) machine in place to accept various electronic payments, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Funding to pay for the cost of using the machine is being provided by CHP. The initiative is also working with the DJDC to help promote the Farmers Market and will also provide tote bags for customers who use the Farmers Market.

This year’s Farmers Market will run from June 8 to October 10.

“One of the things I’ve noticed over the past year that’s very exciting is how partners are coming together to share resources,” says Forbes. “We see Chautauqua Opportunities and BOCES stepping up to help build gardens for various organizations. So not only do we have the health component, but we’re also helping as a workforce development program. So we’re doing skill-building, workforce development, bringing healthy foods and giving community service opportunities.

It’s wonderful to see so many of these partners intersecting and working with each other in new and different ways.”

Forbes adds that there are dozens of other garden-related projects planned for this year and any resident, group or business that wants to get involved is invited to do so.

“We are always looking for volunteers to get involved!”

To learn more about the various gardening initiatives in the area, or about other projects connected to CHP, call (716) 338-0010.