Ellenville and the Shawangunks      © Steve Aaron Photography

Local photographer, Steve Aaron, reminds us how beautifully-located we are in Ellenville, set in open country between the Shawangunks and the Catskill Mountains of the Hudson Valley, New York. The stunning natural scenery here is unchanged from the days of the early and mid twentieth century when this part of Ulster County was a popular vacation destination known as "The Jewish Alps".

Here are a few links for information about Ellenville:

Ellenville Public Library and Museum http://eplm.org/

Village of Ellenville http://villageofellenville.com/

Ellenville-Wawarsing Chamber of Commerce http://www.ewcoc.com/Pages/default.aspx

Canal Street, Ellenville, 1909     © Ellenville NY Tripod

Ellenville became a thriving, bustling village through most of the twentieth century, before a period of economic decline followed the closure of manufacturing industries here in the 1990s. Happily, economic regeneration is becoming visible in Ellenville, particularly in the "Theater District" where several restaurateurs have committed new investment. Ellenville's Aroma Thyme Bistro is the Hudson Valley's first Green Certified restaurant.

A $313 million financing deal will see the Nevele ProSport Campus, Resort & Spa as a catalyst for economic development in the Hudson Valley region by reestablishing Ellenville as a premier resort destination from 2020. Heralding new prosperity for our village, the Nevele project is set to create 600 much-needed local jobs.

Follow this link for details of the Nevele ProSport Campus, Resort & Spa (LINK)

The "Ellenville Garden Village" project
In this "Ellenville Garden Village" blog we feature smaller-scale, community-based horticultural initiatives that we hope will serve to reconnect local residents of all ages. Through this project, community organic vegetable gardens are springing up in and around the village, where local people are encouraged to learn the techniques and philosophies of growing one's own natural produce, caring for productive and aesthetically-pleasing plots. Central to this project is the reintroduction of our village farmers' market, to support our local farmers and crafts people, and to enhance the quality of life of local families through nutrition education and the promotion of organic and naturally grown foods. Our farmers' market acts as a showcase to enrich the cultural heritage of the local community, and provides a working setting to teach entrepreneurship skills to local young people. Once established and competent in business management, these young people may spin off into storefronts or catering; creating jobs and contributing to the local economy and to cultural and societal uplift..

Community organic vegetable garden created at Praise Dominion church, Ellenville, 2015

Ellenville Farmers' Market, re-launched in 2016

The project's coordinator, John Clark, arrived in Ellenville in 2015 from England, where he was a University Professor of Earth Science, a business developer in the non-profit sector, and Chairman of a Workers’ and a Housing Cooperative. Since 1988 John has also created and taught in community organic vegetable gardens.

Learning of Ellenville's glorious heyday, but observing certain current socio-economic difficulties in the village, John became interested in identifying areas of potential for local regeneration. John therefore undertook a six-week reconnaissance mission in early 2015, meeting with a hundred local people in positions of responsibility, listening to specialist knowledge and experience, and noting ideas and advice.

There would be no funding available for John to set up any regenerative project here at this time. All initiatives would necessarily have to proceed according to reciprocally beneficial partnerships and collaborations based upon trust, volunteerism and donations of resources. Indeed, as a newcomer to the village, John would first have to prove his sincerity to prospective project partners by working solo to set in place the foundations for any new project, before active support could be considered by any interested party.

An emergency relocation to Ellenville had consumed the finances of John and his now-wife Kathy, such that desperation necessitated an availing of the village’s food pantries. Wishing to reciprocate this kind assistance, John created for the Praise Dominion church an organic vegetable garden on unused land adjoining the church building. The harvest of fresh vegetables was distributed as part of Praise Dominion’s food pantry commitment.

Praise Dominion Family Worship Center, Ellenville

As this formerly neglected plot of land at Praise Dominion began to take an aesthetic and productive form, John conceived the vision of reproducing this template of cultivation at other places of worship in Ellenville. A village-wide community vegetable gardens project would help to transform unused plots into beautiful and productive spaces, while giving nutritional support to needy residents, introducing an active interest in horticulture to local people of all ages, and then, somehow, integrating this healthy activity within a purposeful community focus.

The vision was presented as a coherent project to six places of worship and two owners of residential property in and close by Ellenville, and universal interest was confirmed in embracing the initiative across the next few years. John had succeeded with appeals for donations of the materials, tools and seeds necessary to cultivate the Praise Dominion garden, and donations were pledged for future works at the project's other locations.

The Praise Dominion herb garden, attractively lined with rocks extracted during bed preparation

A key project development came in April, 2015, when, having learned of the community gardens project, the local government, the Village of Ellenville, unanimously appointed John to manage a reopening of Ellenville’s farmers’ market, so providing an ideal venue to bring people together through growing healthy food. Now with a steering group and several nice partnerships, we're preparing a better-than-ever 2018 farmers' market season.

The project aims to reach out to Ellenville’s residential sector, focusing on accommodation as rented by willing people in unemployment. Supported by Cornell Cooperative Extension, John will design vegetable plots that will replace poorly-kept yard areas, thereby encouraging families to participate in caring for their own vegetable gardens. It may be through gaining a new awareness of self-provision by growing one's own vegetables, and discovering a new pride in themselves, in their gardens and in their village that residents in poverty aspire with purpose away from the cycle of reliance upon others, toward a new life of achievement, reward and ambition.

Taking the “Ellenville Garden Village” project to the younger generation, hands-on horticultural projects are being designed for classroom studies. Right now, young people are earning school community service credits under John’s supervision at the Praise Dominion garden, and this partnership with Ellenville Central School District will be developed, involving student placement at several vegetable gardens across the village. More than learning how to cultivate vegetables, young participants in this project receive a balanced, holistic learning experience as they are introduced to natural food production and organic philosophy. Students are encouraged in personal development of life skills such as leadership, planning ahead, patience, initiative, earning one's rewards, taking responsibility, being reliable to complete tasks to the best of one's ability and according to deadlines, and building friendships through a true appreciation that “we accomplished this together”.

Education for all ages is central to the mission of the “Ellenville Garden Village” project, and John has designed a formal horticultural teaching program for adult students, "Organic Vegetable Gardening", that will partner with Ellenville's Green Certified restaurant, Aroma Thyme Bistro, commencing March, 2019.

Teenage volunteer, Max, earning community service credits at an Ellenville community garden

We are working in liaison with local government to unify efforts to achieve mutually-desired objectives that may provide environmentally friendly programs and opportunities for businesses to invest and locate in Ellenville. In beautifying unattractive plots of land, this project will improve the morale of all who reside or work in Ellenville, while an aesthetically-pleasing village will represent a more attractive proposition for new investment.

In whatever capacity you are able, this program of regeneration welcomes your participation to develop and sustain the work required to enhance Ellenville’s well-being. In order to achieve and develop the objectives of the “Ellenville Garden Village” project, four practical considerations must now necessarily be realized:

(i) Volunteer commitment for spring 2018, as existing community vegetable gardens are being maintained and new sites are prepared and cultivated (work tasks will match physical ability)

(ii) Donations of gardening equipment and materials (including organic seeds, deer-proof fencing, 6 ft fence posts, and dry concrete mix)

(iii) Vendor commitment (foods, crafts, community-based organizations, entertainments and events planners) and active market day customer support for our great local vendors at Ellenville Farmers’ Market

(iv) Sponsor commitment for Ellenville Farmers’ Market (even a small contribution will be very welcome)

Furthermore, an invitation is open to all Ellenville’s places of worship with an unused plot of land, no matter how overgrown or small, to contact us in order that we may initiate plans for productive organic cultivation.

It is the intention of this blog that we may share with all interested parties an outline of the current and planned activities being carried out in the “Ellenville Garden Village” project, in an effort to attract active participation in a program whose mission is to improve the economic and holistic well-being of Ellenville and its residents.

Project coordinator, John Clark, can be contacted by email: EllenvilleOrgVeg@aol.com