For your information, South Boston is the home of a special and unique organization. The founder of this organization is a local resident, George Benner. George established it more than a dozen years ago in 2008, and he named it the “Round Table”. If you think you remember that the first Round Table was part of the stories about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, you are absolutely correct.
In George’s case, South Boston’s Round Table is devoted to gardening – yes, gardening. The Round Table’s gardens are located in and around the Mary Ellen McCormack Project, between Old Colony/Columbia and Dorchester Avenue. These gardens have one, single purpose: the harvesting of nourishing vegetables that are available for free to residents of Mary Ellen McCormack. The Round Table are “working” gardens that nourish many hundreds of South Boston residents.
And (of course), vegetables are the most important part of the human diet – vegetables are chock full of fiber, vitamins, and many other essential nutrients. You can certainly recall your mother and father reminding you, “Eat your vegetables!” We’ll quote Michael Pollan, the world-famous gourmet and food writer, about a healthy diet. Pollan says, “Eat whatever you want, but not too much, and mostly vegetables.”
The Round Table’s crops include a huge variety of vegetables. While a complete listing would be too long to read, there are “green leafies” everywhere that include an unusual green called amaranth. Squashes with yellow blooms nestle next to a pumpkin patch getting ready for Halloween. Vivid purple eggplants are now about the size of a clenched fist and have a few weeks of growth yet. Several hundred tomato plants are rapidly ripening. Red-hot red peppers are ready. There are even some flowers growing, but in the case of the marigolds, these serve to attract bees and drive away animals who do not like to odor of marigolds.
George’s Round Table vegetable gardens have a very formal name nowadays – they’re called an ”Urban Agriculture Program”. But the numbers in this Program are even more impressive than that name by itself. We’ve mentioned that the Round Table gardens have been planted and harvested since 2008. That’s 15 years ago, as of the end of this summer. And the gardens have really gotten big – the estimated amount of garden area being cultivated this summer amounts to nearly 25,000 (!) square feet. At this time, the Round Table actually has three gardens – along Logan Way, across from Sterling Square, and inside a fenced-in plot of ground next to the Moakley Park field house. Because of the enormous success of the Round Table’s three gardens, George and the Round Table have requested more land for cultivation in future years.
The “green leafies” mature fast, so some of them have been harvested already – 3,500 pounds or almost two full tons. The final harvest of the Round Table’s gardens will amount to thousands upon thousands of pounds of highly nourishing vegetables of every kind imaginable. But the most heartening figures of all are the numerous volunteers. George Benner (a volunteer himself) has brought together more than 70 volunteers, who take care of the Round Table gardens from spring planting to weeding and cultivating to the final harvesting from now through October. It’s a remarkable, community-oriented effort.
To the Round Table, we can only say “Thanks!”, and wish them 15 more years of devoted community service.