The Pleasantville Community Garden is known as a beacon of collaborative effort to grow and give food to those in need.
Last Saturday, about 30 people gathered at the garden at St. John’s Episcopal Church to honor Devin Juros and his family for starting the garden project seven years ago. The garden was the brainchild of Juros when he was in middle school.
Devin’s father, David, recalled when his then-seventh-grade son came home from school after hearing someone speaking about food insecurity. His son told him that something had to be done.
Over four months, Devin outlined a plan to build a garden and wrote a detailed list of what would be needed.
“He had a passion about it and it was something that was bigger than ourselves,” David Juros said.
The family followed their son’s lead and reached out to the community for help and found residents ready to donate their time. St. John’s Episcopal donated the 600-square-foot plot to grow organic vegetables as well as reusing and recycling materials.
Unbeknownst to Devin and his parents, the garden’s board of directors unveiled a special plaque honoring the family for “Growing, Gathering and Giving since 2014.”
Presenting the plaque was Abi Wright, chair of the Pleasantville Community Garden Board of Directors. Wright announced that since the garden started, nearly 100,000 pounds of food have been donated to various local food pantries and organizations.
Also honoring Juros was Mayor Peter Scherer, who shared local lore about 18th century farmer Daniel Earle who owned an orchard near where the community garden is today.
“It brought back the idea that a piece of agrarian life is one we haven’t yet lost,” Scherer said.
Devin Juros said it was great to see everyone together again after life was interrupted by COVID-19.
“The pandemic showed us how much we all rely on each other, how life is chaotic and we don’t know what will happen next,” he said.
Juros, a junior at Brown University majoring in biology and philosophy (his favorites philosopher is Immanuel Kant), said that during the past 15 months, the garden became even more essential. He noted that his experience creating and building the garden with like-minded community members heightened his interest in medical and biological research and treatment for prevalent diseases.
Before presenting the plaque, former village trustee Steve Lord recalled his surprise when his son came home from school and announced “I’m going to garden with Devin.”
“What that meant was an eighth-grader was inspired to take part in a cause that was greater than himself,” Lord said.
Volunteers not only plant and harvest vegetables they also pick up food donations from the Pleasantville Farmers Market and local bakeries and deliver food to Hillside Food Outreach, an Elmsford-based nonprofit organization that distributes food more than 2,000 people in Westchester, Putnam and Fairfield counties who are unable to visit pantries on their own.
Garden Volunteers also deliver food to Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco, a group working with immigrants to help integrate them into the community. During the summer the garden donates garden-fresh vegetables to a local A-Home resident each week.
Ashly Juskus, a Pleasantville resident since 2016, said she was one of the truck drivers picking up donations and delivering food to pantries.
“It was different during COVID because the farmers market had folks pre-order online and the amount of donated food was lower,” she said. “But it’s great to give back to the community and help as much as we do.”