Master Gardener Starts Community Garden

The East End of Long Island is rich in agriculture, but it is also rich in volunteers, who believe teaching the public about gardening best practices, based on the experience and research of Cornell Cooperative Extension, is as crucial as maintaining open space and buying local.

Evidence is the extension’s master gardener volunteer program, which, in Suffolk County, requires program graduates to give 125 hours of time to the public to relay what they have learned by speaking libraries or garden clubs, helping establish school gardens, creating programs for seniors, youth and the physically and mentally challenged and creating community gardens.

A map of established projects, such as Charnews Farm in Southold, is here.

The newest is a community garden created by Dina Kontokosta at her family’s vineyard, 67 Steps, in Greenport.

After completing the program, Kontokosta had two acres cleared at the farm with the goal of supplying fresh produce, herbs and flowers to local nonprofits and soup kitchens. After seeing how large two acres actually is, she decided to start small, look for volunteers, who are able to keep their own plots as incentive for helping out, and work toward creating her own nonprofit so she can accept donations to grow the garden and its mission.

Last week the first harvest, radishes, were dug up while Kontokosta and volunteer and friend Jacqueline Dubé plucked weeds and measured off plots for beans and tomatoes. Peter Clarke of Clarke’s Garden in Greenport has also been a dedicated volunteer.

A mother of three young girls, Kontokosta surveyed her work and the work ahead. “We’ll get there,” she said.