Tanya Melendez: Cultivating Community Garden in Oakbrook

​Tanya Melendez has a deep love of the natural beauty contained within the city of Reading. Whether she is enjoying bike rides on local trails, walks to local parks, or watching her daughter climb trees, she has a true appreciation for the joy that nature brings to communities.

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Through her volunteer work with the 18th Ward of Reading, she is eager to bring nature to residents in a new and exciting way: A community garden, called “Cultivating Community at Oakbrook”

​“This year has highlighted the need for food security,” said Melendez, in reference to the shortages caused by the pandemic. “Normal, everyday people…[were] really afraid about not having enough food for their kids. My way of controlling that was to create a veggie garden at home.”

Melendez shared that the Victory Garden Task Force (named after the “Victory Gardens” planted during WWII by those on the home front) assembled take-home mini gardens for families in Reading last year. The take-home gardens were, however, only the beginning.

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​An opportunity arose for Melendez to apply for a grant to plant a community garden in Reading. This grant inspired multiple donors to come forward and offer everything from soil testing, to land, to water and rain water barrel donations. Melendez shared that they are currently planning the layout of the garden and waiting on results from the soil testing, then, “It’s go time!”.

​The garden will consist of 24 separate single or double plots for people to grow their own vegetables, including at least three ADA raised garden beds that will be accessible to residents in either walkers or wheelchairs.

“[We are] hoping it becomes not only a community garden for 24 families, but a place for the community at large to do things,” said Melendez, sharing that she is planning on various classes concerning everything from horticulture to cooking being offered at the garden.

She also added that they are hoping to build a play area for children in the future, so they can play safely while their parents garden.

​“I love this community,” Melendez shared passionately. “[The garden will] be a wonderful place to learn and to just be.”

​If you want to volunteer your time, gardening equipment, seeds, or anything else that this project might need, please visit their website at residents18thw.wordpress.com, or send Melendez an email at 18thw@gmail.com.

Jason Hugg
Editor and photographer of Reading Magazine.
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