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Grow Amsterdam opens a new community garden that lets seniors get their hands dirty

Amsterdam locals are celebrating a new community garden centered around giving older city residents easier access to nature.

“And to the many women who have molded me to be the woman I am today, thank you,” said Bernadette Twente.

Raised gardening beds, composting piles, and what will eventually become a rainwater collection system all provide the necessary support for aging city residents to garden as they please.

At a ribbon cutting, Grow Amsterdam President Bernadette Twente says the project took around two years of planning and funding.

“I’m grateful that I get to do what I do and I love it. It’s thrilling to see their smiles, their sighs of relief when they’re in a space that be tranquil. It can maybe even take them away from the busy-ness of family sometimes that we all need to take a break from. So, I’m overjoyed,” said Twente.

Grow Amsterdam runs a community garden just two blocks up the road — only it’s up a steep hill, making the journey difficult for residents of the two assisted living facilities and senior center at the bottom.

Bernadette’s husband Tom Twente is on the board of Grow Amsterdam.

“It’s a hill, especially in the winter time. You know there’s times where we don’t go home or leave the house in the winter because you’re not sure if you can make the turn or if they haven’t salted the streets yet. Having this at the bottom of the hill is just an ideal location,” said Twente.

Margaret Streeter lives in the Mohawk Terrace Senior Apartments. She had been lugging compost collections from her neighbors up the hill. Now that walk is a bit easier.

“I like being in the dirt, I don’t care anything about flowers because they die. The vegetables and fruit, yes. But I’m not an avid [gardener]. I have to say that I’m not. I just like playing in the dirt and seeing the people have a good time,” said Streeter.

Streeter’s neighbors Charity Schermerhorn and Sandie Hollman are already busy at work laying their roots in one of the raised beds.

“Watering has to be done in the morning!” said Schermerhorn.

“I wish it wasn’t on the hill but— my walker won’t go over the mulch, it’s terrible,” said Hollman.

“Now I’m really in trouble,” said Schermerhorn.

“So, that means I can’t come over here alone,” said Hollman.

“You can’t get the water,” said Schermerhorn.

“It’s good therapy. And we can meditate while we’re doing it. And it’s just healthy for you. Very much so, and yes we want to eat all these vegetables, we’ve got enough here for a salad,” joked Hollman.

“I’m hoping to be able to give some away. Somebody was talking about pickling peppers I’ve never done that,” said Schermerhorn.

Kathy Palmateer runs the Hippie Hen Flower Farm and donated the marigolds that line the garden’s fence.

“Gardening, I think it, in general, helps your mind, body, and soul. So, if they can get to it easily and have good accessibility I think it’s great,” said Palmateer.

Grow Amsterdam is already eyeing the recently emptied lot across the street to expand the garden in the future.