Commonwealth Land Trust (CLT) has partnered with Egleston Square Orchard to promote community engagement in the Greater Boston area. The following write-up was created by Nate Williams, a Tufts University junior and development and communications intern at CLT.
It’s hardly noticeable from the street- a patch of green in a concrete landscape, marked only by a small wooden sign with hand painted letters. Upon entering the Egleston Community Orchard, however, one experiences an immediate escape from the urban surroundings. Vegetables and fruits of many varieties sprout from raised beds, from snap peas and arugula to raspberries and red currents. In the middle of this oasis stand Orion and Hannah Kriegman, the founders of the project. Over the past few years, they have transformed a vacant lot in Egleston Square into a thriving community garden, a shared space where anyone can help plant or enjoy the crops.
According to the Kriegmans, Egleston Square is the perfect location for the project. Not only does the orchard provide fresh produce to residents of a particularly dense part of Boston, but it also serves as an example for other urban gardening projects. “There is a lot of food growing directly in people’s yards… and it’s probably contaminated soil,” Orion explains. “So educating people about proper gardening techniques and inviting [them] to a shared space where the food is going to be a little bit safer is part of it.” By demonstrating methods of safe, sustainable gardening, the importance of the Egleston Community Orchard has already extended beyond the borders of its small lot.
Yet Orion believes that the crops only represent a small part of the orchard’s potential. In a neighborhood with a very high crime rate, the orchard has provided an outlet for change. Residents have come together around the project and rekindled a sense of community- from neighbors donating their water and electricity to the ice cream man handing out free ice cream, countless acts of kindness have fueled the progress of the Egleston Community Orchard. “It inspires other people to get… engaged,” Orion claims. “The energy is just different when you walk into a space that people care about. It helps the community feel stronger.”
As for the future of the orchard, the folks at Egleston Square have even higher hopes. With Commonwealth Land Trust as its collaborative partner and the continued support of the community, Orion believes that the project can expand to other empty lots and perhaps even to commercial and residential properties. “The lot is a starting point. We are trying to use this as the beginning for a community land trust for the neighborhood,” Orion explains. This type of a project, according to the Kriegmans would “give the neighborhood… some power to shape its own destiny.”
At Commonwealth Land Trust, we believe that is a vision to stand behind.