Westside Community Gardens

Photos and text by Jilly Burns

What was once an empty field nestled between the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway and the West State Street Park in Athens, Ohio, slowly blossomed into a sprawling garden bursting at the seams with vegetation. Green thumbs of the community flock to the space on a daily basis to put their knees in the dirt and grow anything from simple tomatoes and flowers to exotic squashes and vegetables.

Several dozen plots make up the Westside Community Gardens. Each plot is surrounded by protective, sometimes makeshift fences to keep out unwanted pests. Being the oldest community garden in Athens, it was originally under the management of Community Food Initiatives, but now stands as an independent entity.

“There are as many ways of gardening and grades of experience as there are gardeners, but I think we’d all agree that it’s always a wonderful experiment each year,” plot coordinator Kathy White says. “It’s the best hobby there is: fresh air, exercise, problem solving, commune with nature and then you get to eat the best food that can be got!”