By Lenora Kruk-Mullanaphy
When gardening behind her Charles Street home in Fredericksburg, Laura Shepherd* found children in the neighborhood enjoyed helping. She gave them land to nurture and saw a way to bring the community together. Shepherd created a plan for shared garden space in downtown Fredericksburg—the Downtown Greens (DTG).
When the nonprofit organization formed in 1995, DTG purchased land behind Shepherd’s home, providing plots to local residents to grow vegetables. More land was purchased at Princess Anne and Dixon Streets.
Twenty-five years later, a two-acre community greenspace has flourished. Downtown Greens offers the free Youth Farm Program for third to fifth graders with weekly meetings about gardening, nature craft and environmental literacy. At monthly community dinners, kids work with chefs to produce meals from their garden. They also sell extra produce at the Downtown Fredericksburg Farmer’s Market.
The Youth Garden Club is for infants to 8-year-olds with a caregiver and focuses on tending the vegetable patch from seed to harvest. (The goal is to have 75 percent of children from low-income households.)
Garden Sprouts is designed for early childhood Head Start and Virginia Preschool Initiative classes for weekly lessons at the Walker-Grant Center. Two hundred children each week learn about where food comes from as they plant, nurture and tend to their garden.
The Herbal Arts Collective teaches about plants used medicinally and therapeutically and hosts workshops on making salves, teas and more. The Urban Bee Group is all about beekeeping and maintaining a hive.
Downtown Greens’s upper garden is on the corner of Princess Anne and Dixon Streets, and the lower garden is behind the headquarters at 206 Charles Street. The spaces are open to the public from sunrise to sunset daily.
For information about DTG’s garden and office hours, a list of programs and events, and to donate, call (540) 371-7315 or visit www.downtowngreens.org.
*Shepherd now lives in Florida, and her love of gardening has never ceased. She nurtures a beautiful mango tree in her backyard.