The idea of a community garden sprouted in 2008 when Lucy and Gonzalo Silverio’s home garden had become too shady for growing vegetables. While walking their dog, Gonzalo eyed the land that the City of Chelsea owned on both sides of Lett’s Creek, near TimberTown Park and the Chelsea Milling Company (Jiffy Mix). That year, at a New Year’s Eve gathering, Lucy and Gonzalo shared their idea of a community garden with Nancy Paul, the former Director of Faith in Action. Nancy said that she and her husband had also been thinking about the value of a community garden.
In January 2009, Nancy spoke with then City Manager John Hanifan about the possibility of a community garden, and he said that with City Council approval it would be possible to use the open land behind TimberTown Park. Lucy, Gonzalo and Nancy were very happy! Lucy then spent several months visiting Project Grow (the community garden in Ann Arbor), designing and putting up flyers in Chelsea to get people together who wanted to garden, meeting several times with the City Manager, and getting letters from local CSAs supporting the idea. Karen Chalmer and Susan Morrel-Samuels were very helpful in the development of the garden plan. After a lot of planning, Nancy thought that it was a favorable time to take the proposal to the City Council to get approval for use of the land at the far end of TimberTown Park for Chelsea’s community garden. Dan Kaminsky, Susan, Nancy, and Lucy worked together on finishing the proposal to present to the City Council. Dan presented the garden plan to the Council and it passed unanimously.
Lucy and Karen began designing the garden in the spring of 2009 – how large it would be? How many plots would it have? What would be the size of the plots? How would the garden be laid out? After a farmer tilled the entire garden, Dan marked out the corner posts for each plot and the first individual 20 foot by 20 foot plots were planted.
There was a tremendous amount of work necessary to establish the garden. During the first year, gardeners had to walk to the creek with buckets to get water or they would bring water from home. Faith in Action gave the garden the small shed that’s currently used for hand tools. Susan, experienced with grant-writing, assisted in writing a grant to fund fencing, the water system, and a rototiller. In March of 2010, the Community Garden received notice that they had received a generous grant for $6,275 from the Chelsea Community Foundation. A second grant from the Chelsea Wellness Foundation (now known as the 5 Healthy Towns Foundation) funded the purchase of the large equipment shed and additional tools.
The tall fence around the garden was installed in spring 2010 to keep deer out. Steve Wright designed the solar-powered water system and had it working by early July 2010. The deer fence and onsite water supply made a tremendous difference in the successful development of the garden.
In the fall of 2010, the first set of blueberry bushes were planted. The asparagus bed was planted in spring 2013 (it was expanded in 2019). The asparagus (now yielding 100 pounds per season) and blueberries are shared by all of the gardeners.
In the beginning, compost materials were simply piled high in a single plot. A few years later, under the guidance of Roger Storm, the compost bins were relocated to the current spot and Steve spent much of the summer rounding up concrete blocks from many sources to build the current compost bins which added necessary storage space for compostable materials. In 2015, chicken wire was added at the base of the fence to exclude hungry rabbits. New 4″ by 4″ fence posts were purchased in 2018 thanks to a $850 grant from the Chelsea Garden Club.
The community gardeners are grateful to Faith in Action, the Chelsea Garden Club and the 5 Healthy Towns Foundation for their generous support to get the garden off the ground. Special thanks to those people who worked very hard to establish the Chelsea Community Garden and make it what it is today.