Growing community: Work gets underway at new Halliwell garden


NORTH SMITHFIELD – An effort to create a community garden at the former Halliwell Elementary School property is now well underway, with a group of some 15 volunteers working to set up the facility over the past several weeks.

The garden, an initiative from the town’s Parks & Recreation Committee spearheaded by Chairperson Ann Lilley, will see donation of half of the food grown to the North Smithfield Food Pantry, with the other half to be split among volunteers.

Lilley noted it’s been a good turnout so far for the effort, with volunteer workers putting up part of the fence and laying out beds with layers of cardboard, straw and composted cow manure.

Members of the new gardening group have shown up for scheduled work days, and have now been invited to stop by and work at the location whenever they have spare time.

There’s been less response to the, “open call,” a possible indication that socializing, meeting and working with neighbors may be part of the appeal.

“It just might take time for people to feel like they own it and can just show up and work on it,” Lilley said, noting that so far, there’s been no need for a set schedule. “That could evolve.”

At harvest time, she noted, there will be schedule to ensure timely delivery to the food pantry. The gardeners plan to grow vegetables, including several beds of tomatoes, and green and yellow beans.

“Half the beds are finished,” Lilley said, noting that the remaining eight will be completed within the next two weeks.

Once complete, the garden will encompass a roughly 30 X 50 space between the cafe-torium and administration buildings at the former school. Planting was tentatively scheduled to begin Thursday, May 27 and Lilley noted that there’s still space for more volunteers.

“The hard work is done – because shoveling that cow manure was hard,” Lilley said with a laugh.

A gardener herself for some 40 years, Lilley said interest in the new community space, so far, has been roughly what she expected.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but it might still grow,” she said. “Every couple of days I get another email or question.”

Those with questions, or who would like to volunteer for the project, are invited to contact Lilley at

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