By Anne Calos
The peppers are big and shiny, and the zucchini grew like — well — zucchini.
In its first year, Lockport’s Imagine Community Garden has produced a mountain of vegetables. In addition, the garden is landscaped with a variety of perennial and annual flowers and shrubs.
Imagine is a nonprofit organization and the vision of Robert J. Zima and Richard Tedeschi, who are members of The Chapel. Imagine’s mission statement is “To resource inner city churches with products, training and manpower; to create and develop community vegetable gardens, sowing seeds of friendship, hope and faith.” The Lockport garden is its pilot project.
Once an empty and abandoned area near the corner of Washburn and South streets in Lockport, it is now a lush garden filled with wooden boxes overflowing with vegetables and herbs — but what to do with such a bumper crop?
Just ask Donaday, a trained chef and director of Children’s Ministry and administrative director of The Chapel’s Lockport Campus.
“I’m not one who likes getting my fingers dirty in the dirt, but I’m happy to get my fingers dirty in the kitchen,” Donaday said.
Donaday will be in charge of two food demonstrations on Wednesday at The Chapel offices in Lockport’s Old Post Office.
The idea is to let people know how they can turn all those vegetables into delicious and nutritious meals.
“I took a walk through the garden to see what’s growing there, and I plan to incorporate those foods into my recipes. Since there is no oven at the Old Post Office, I’ll be mostly preparing al fresco recipes, although if something does need to be cooked, I can begin preparing it at home,” Donaday said.
Although she still hasn’t settled on the exact recipes she’ll be preparing, Donaday has some ideas, including salsa, pesto, vinaigrette, Caprese salad and zucchini casserole.
“I’ll show how everything is prepared and then they can sample it. I’ll be using other ingredients, but ideally, you want to use what’s there. I may or may not ask for volunteers to help, but I’m trying to keep it very simple,” Donaday said.
Garden directors are Nancy and Dave Tagliferro and Elaine Barnett.
Nancy, a master gardener, explained that the garden is organic, and no artificial fertilizers or pesticides are used.
“About 25 people have participated in the garden, and it has gone extremely well — better than we had hoped. The neighbors have been really amazing. There has been no vandalism, and only a couple of people have come in and taken anything,” Nancy Tagliferro said.
Her husband, Dave, said that he has been overwhelmed by the success of the garden. He said everything was donated, from the soil, to the irrigation system, to the plants.
The garden is a community outreach for The Chapel, and every Saturday morning, members are there with “First Fruit,” handing out fresh vegetables to community members who stop by. They have also had other events in the garden, and have gotten to know many of the neighbors.
“The other day, a man was walking by and asked what was going on. I offered him some fresh tomatoes and he was just so surprised and happy. That’s what we’re trying to do here,” Nancy Tagliferro said.
“This has been such a positive influence on the neighborhood. It’s like a light in the darkness,” Donaday said.
Copyright 2013 Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, Edition 09/08/2013