With a goal of establishing a community garden by this spring, where residents can grow vegetables, fruit, flowers and more for personal consumption, the Conservation Commission is creating the Exeter Garden Committee.
"There's been interest on and off, so I thought we'd take it to the next level and put it out there for the Conservation Commission to discuss," said member Michelle Newman, who is spearheading the effort. "This is something that would benefit a lot of people."
The committee will identify a piece of suitable property in Exeter, establish rules for the its use, and research how much it might cost to maintain the garden and how it would be paid for.
The commission has already identified two possible properties; the Raynes Farm, which is conservation land managed by the commission, and Little River practice field located on Linden Street at the former Exeter High School.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each site, Newman said. The Raynes Farm would return to its agricultural history and is immediately available, but has limited parking and is located a distance from town — five miles, to be exact. The sports field is close to town and has plenty of parking, but has unknown soil quality and an easement agreement that would need to be reached between the school district and the town. The state Department of Environmental Services (DES) would also be involved as the land abuts the Little River.
The commission is open to exploring the option of using private land if a landowner is willing.
The Garden Committee will hold a public hearing to gauge interest in the idea during its first meeting the week of Jan. 25. During the week of Feb. 15, the committee will create bylaws, determine the size of plots within the garden, how to rent out the plots and when the garden would officially open.
This would be presented to the Conservation Commission for its approval in March.
"If all goes well, gardening would begin when the ground is ready," Newman said.
There are many community benefits to establishing a community garden space, Newman said, including nutrition, health, well-being, a sense of community and publicity.
"There is a sense of accomplishment and pride in the abundance that you can put on the table," she said. "You may meet somebody and maybe you can share items. There are already wonderful amenities available to residents, so why not add more?"