The Putnam Examiner

Library’s Garden Yields Bounty Beyond Fresh Vegetables

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Although they don’t come in the form of written text, the garden and gazebo at the Patterson Public Library have provided many educational programs and opportunities for the community over the past several years.

The inspiration for the vegetable garden came from a little boy who visited the library three years ago in search of a book about gardening.

Upon seeing his enthusiasm, Patterson Public Library’s Child Programs Leader Ellen Clancy began the “Story Time Garden Club,” the members of which planted the garden.

“In the words of the philosopher Cicero, ‘If you have a garden and a library, you have all you need’,” Clancy said.

Patterson Public Library Child Programs Leader, Ellen Clancy, and the library's Event Coordinator Lillie Muscente, stand next to the vegetable and flower garden that has produced so much more than healthy, fresh vegetables for the library's patrons.

Erik Petersen, owner of Petersen’s Patterson Greenhouse that sits adajacent to the library, provided much of the necessary supplies and labor to create the garden in 2009.

In 2010, Patterson Library Event Coordinator, Lillie Muscente, applied for a grant from the United Way of Westchester & Putnam. The $30,000 “Step Up 2 Health” grant awarded the library $10,000 annually over the course of three years.

“We’re very grateful toward the United Way of Westchester & Putnam for all the help,” said Muscente. “Because of them, we were able to expand the garden and get the gazebo.”

The grant’s purpose is to provide greater opportunities for healthy eating to the residents of Putnam County.

“All the library events have healthy snacks from our own garden now – we strayed away from the cookies and other unhealthier snacks,” Muscente said.

Library patrons also are able to take home some of the produce grown in the garden.

Funding from the grant has been put toward programs aimed at wellness and healthy living, many of which take place in the gazebo.

“We have a comprehensive series of programs that educate adults and children on gardening, nutrition, fitness, wellness, low-fat cooking, healthy brown bag lunches, and many more topics, thanks to the grant,” said Muscente.

Red bell peppers and sunflowers grow at the Patterson Public Library's garden.

In addition, fitness programs are offered by the library’s community partners – Gold’s Gym of Carmel, Inner Balance Studio of Patterson, and Epic Studios of Brewster – and include Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, Meditation, gymnastics, and Zumba.

Staying in the spirit of physical fitness, the Patterson Public Library used a portion of the grant to supply more than 700 students at the Matthew Paterson Elementary School with pedometers. Over the course of six weeks, the students logged a total of 17,567,361 steps; the equivalent of 7,026 miles.

Patterson Public Library’s healthy living series went on to be featured on the Rachel Ray Show’s website,, devoted to the development of a child’s healthy relationship with food.

The vending machine at the library is unique, as it is stocked strictly with healthy snacks and is outfitted with a monitor to inform patrons about a specific snack’s nutritional information.

The garden, now in its third year, has yielded so much more than fresh vegetables, Muscente said.

Statistics kept by the library show that approximately 3,000 people have been impacted in some way by the garden and/or the grant that was awarded as a result of the garden being planted.

“We started with a garden, and now we have so much more,” Muscente said.

All Putnam County residents are invited to check out the library’s garden, gazebo, outdoor seating, free wi-fi and life-size outdoor checker board at 1167 Route 311 in Patterson.

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