Neighborhood Gardens

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer or would like to collaborate, please contact the garden manager, Carey Smith, at info@epnia.com or 217-747-8337. The display center in front of the garden contains current information about upcoming volunteer activities and any social events. We welcome you!

Our garden

The Enos Park Neighborhood Gardens, 1022 North Fifth, is an active and engaged part of our neighborhood. We meet three times weekly in season (May-September) to garden.

Our garden is a nexus of our neighborhood—where fresh produce and community spirit interact to produce abundance. Our mission is to foster an environment where people from all walks of life can come together to grow high-quality food. We want to increase access to fresh produce, teach others valuable skills, and create a context where people can become neighbors.

Communal and personal plots

Our communal garden consists of 30 raised beds (4′ x 8′), plus 3 wheelchair-accessible beds (2′ x 4′), making up about 1000 square feet of garden space where we share in the work and share in the harvest.

Volunteers prepare, plant, maintain, and harvest under the direction of the garden manager, with volunteers getting the first pick of the harvest. Surplus produce is donated to Kumler Outreach Ministries, our community partner, for its food pantry. In 2021, surplus produce was also donated to the Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network, and we experimented with a free farmers market.

Typically we plant the vegetables we all love to eat and that grow well in our climate — a couple dozen varieties. We have an established asparagus and perennial onion patch, and are increasing the number and amount of fresh herbs and fruits that we raise.

Additionally, we have 18 raised beds (4′ x 8′) in our personal plot area, along with 2 wheelchair-accessible beds (2′ x 4′). Personal plots can be rented for $10/gardening year, or for 2 hours of volunteer time in our communal garden. This rental fee comes with access to water, tools, and seeds, as well as mulch and occasional seedlings. Gardening advice is available upon request.

Anyone may volunteer in our communal garden or rent a personal plot, whether living in the Enos Park neighborhood or outside the neighborhood.

Volunteers

Our volunteers are what make our garden a success! We garden together three times each week. Some volunteers come to every work day, some once per week or once per month. Other volunteers come when we give a shout-out for all hands on deck (infrastructure projects, spring planting, etc.). We appreciate all of our volunteers!

The garden also hosts several volunteer groups throughout the year. Students, faculty, and staff of SIU School of Medicine help out our entire neighborhood with their spring Day of Service. The garden is boosted every summer with visits from Your Obedient Servant Mission Camp from Petersburg and youth groups from St. Gerard and St. Mary Catholic Churches in Lansing, Michigan, who work on infrastructure projects. We also appreciate volunteer groups from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Christian Student Fellowship at UIS, United Way’s Day of Action, the UIS volunteer center, and Hope Church, all of whom have contributed greatly to our success at the garden.

Community Partners

The Enos Park Neighborhood Gardens is currently a collaboration between the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association (EPNIA) and Kumler Outreach Ministries, which contribute funds, support, and volunteers to make the garden a vibrant part of our community.

Additionally, the garden has prospered with grants from the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, and the Dominican Sisters. This support has allowed us to install raised beds, increase our accessibility, provide a message center for better communication, hold basic and advanced organic gardening and design classes in spring, and plant a pollinator patch and more fruits for our garden, as well as provide for our operating budget and supplemental hours for the garden manager.

Grant funding has also allowed us to host recurring social events at the garden. Our Summer Jamboree in July and Campfire Sing-along in October offer an opportunity for garden volunteers and neighbors to enjoy the garden at its finest—full of music, food, and community.

Our partnership with the Sierra Club has resulted in 1600 square feet in two parcels in the lawn of the garden being planted in a native prairie, heavily skewed toward short- to medium-height flowers. This is part of a nationwide push to increase monarch habitat, but also attracts much-valued and beneficial pollinators to our garden.

Eric Pope of Taylorville is our grower, who brings us dozens of seedlings, free of charge, every spring. We are also thankful for the many other seed and seedling donations we receive throughout the year.

Our recent accomplishments

The past several years have seen significant infrastructure upgrades at the garden, including the installation of raised beds full of new topsoil, compost, and manure. We’ve made accessibility a goal, in hopes that anyone can participate in our garden, regardless of abilities.

We’ve planted a dozen fruit trees and a few soft fruits, as well as a 300 square foot U-pick strawberry bed open to the neighborhood. A grant will allow for additional fruit trees (complementary to our neighborhood orchard at the end of the block), as well as a number of bushes and vines, scheduled to be planted in spring 2022. Currently our fruits include: rhubarb, mulberry, raspberry, black raspberry, ground cherry, pear, apple, and strawberry.

Our future

Now that our garden is fully functioning and accessible, we turn our thoughts to the future. It’s time for brainstorming to take the center stage, and we ask all of our volunteers, community partners, and neighbors to shape our garden to function in a way that benefits the most people in our community. On our brainstorming list:

  • Garden clubs for kids
  • Urban farmer training
  • Free farmers markets
  • Prairie/pollinator education
  • Medicine garden
  • Sensory garden
  • Increased partnerships and collaborations
  • Seed and seedling swap

It’s time to ask questions like, how do we better integrate ourselves within our neighborhood and greater community? How can we improve access to our surplus produce? In what ways can we help our neighbors learn the skills to grow their own food? This is an ongoing conversation, and we invite you to take part.

Our history

The neighborhood gardens began in 2012 at the Springfield Art Association (SAA), 700 North Fourth, as an Eagle Scout project to build beds, with the actual gardening beginning the following year. The great success at this location inspired volunteers to create a second location, which is our current site. The original garden has since been demolished, as a planned expansion of the SAA campus.

Our goals have not changed much since the beginning:

The focus of The Neighborhood Gardens is to build community while teaching people how to grow high-quality, nutritious food. As neighbors gather in the garden to plant their personal plots and the communal plot, people are getting to know one another. It’s becoming an “our” space for the neighborhood, a place where people can come together, work together and learn from one another.