Monmouth County ACTS

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County Organizations Work Together to Help Spanish-Speaking Residents Flourish at Freehold Community Garden

Freehold resident Karen works with her daughter to tend the pole beans she grows at the Freehold Community Garden. Karen and her friend Sara grow vegetables in their shared garden plot to supplement their groceries.

When administrators at the Freehold Community Garden noticed a decline in the number of applications for a garden bed, they took action. Gardener Jeanne Patterson tapped into her network with Neighborhood Connections To Health (NCTH), a coalition comprised of individuals who have a vested interest in improving the health and well-being of Freehold residents, to learn more.

“Neighborhood Connections shared with me that Freehold Borough is about 68 percent Latino; we were not serving that population in the garden,” said Patterson. She made it her goal to connect with Spanish-speaking gardeners. To do so, she reached out to Monmouth ACTS’ community partner Monmouth County Council for Young Children (CCYC), of Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, an organization especially active in ACTS’ Early Childhood Success hub.

CCYC’s Jenna Sistad invited Patterson to attend a meeting – that’s where she met Karen and Sara, two Spanish-speaking Freehold residents who were interested in gardening. After NCTH supplied the two women with a scholarship to cover their application fee and Patterson gave them seed packets, Karen and Sara started gardening a shared plot at the Community Garden, just a short distance from their homes. They water, weed, care for and maintain a healthy vegetable garden, including squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, kale, cucumbers and pole beans. The crops they harvest go right into their own kitchens, or are gifted to parents, family and friends, supplementing their food shopping.

“I like how we have our own space to grow and it’s all organic – no pesticides or anything. I like to come by and check on what’s growing – we are seeing our food develop completely,” Karen says. “And we’re saving money on groceries, too.”

But the best part of gardening, both women say, is working with their children in the garden. “I love that I can bring my son here to help me and he can learn this skill for his future,” Sara says. “It’s like a family outing.”

Since joining the garden, Karen and Sara have helped with translating efforts for Spanish-speaking gardeners and encouraged others to sign up for the garden next spring. Patterson worked with the Freehold Health Department to have the Community Garden application translated into Spanish.

“This is an exciting example of what Monmouth ACTS exists to do – help the great organizations in Monmouth County connect with each other to streamline services and make sure opportunities like the Freehold Community Garden are available to residents like Karen and Sara,” says Freeholder Sue Kiley.  

Freehold resident Sara (left, with her son) shares a plot at the Freehold Community Garden with her friend Karen (right, with Karen’s daughter). Karen and Sara, who were introduced to the Garden at a Monmouth County Council for Young Children meeting, speak Spanish and have helped share information about the Community Garden with members of the Spanish-speaking community.

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