Backyard food growers celebrated at eighth annual Kitchen Garden Tour

Chester. After a long day of garden hopping, over 100 gathered at Meadow Blues Coffee to vote for their favorite plots. Locals took home top awards for their crops.

| 01 Aug 2022 | 04:16

Over 100 turned out for Dirt magazine’s 2022 Kitchen Garden Tour on Sunday, July 31. Equipped with a guide of 14 local backyard food gardens, they spent the day hopping from one veggie patch to the next, chatting with gardeners, and even sampling some of the produce along the way.

The event, now in its eighth year, featured first-timers, and some past favorites: like Monroe, N.Y. engineer Klaas Vogel’s garden surrounded by fencing he designed himself, and the Wolverton’s Wantage, N.J. plots bursting with fresh organic produce.

“Even if you stop at the same address year after year, there’s actually no such thing as visiting the same garden twice,” said Dirt Editor and Publisher Becca Tucker. “Each season has its dynamics, which interweave with all the others to compose the story of this particular person on this particular patch of earth at this particular moment.”

Top crops

Gardeners and peepers gathered at Meadow Blues Coffee’s sprawling outdoor Blues Garden in Chester, N.Y. for the after party. Attendees voted for their favorite gardens, while mingling with the food growers over live music and locally crafted food and drinks.

Winning gardens were announced that evening.

Christina Stephens, the farmer behind Vernon Valley Farm, took third place for Best Garden. “Great garden, great pigs, chicks, the whole shebang,” an attendee noted.

Second place for Best Garden went to Alayna Berezniuk’s Wantage, N.J. plot, which she affectionately calls “a rustic oasis where creativity runs wild. “I just absolutely loved her garden. It really spoke to me,” said an event attendee. “I love the rustic feeling...And I love the goats.”

For the first time in eight years, there was a tie for first place: Aysha Venjara and Dawn Mele both took home the top award.

Attendees raved about Venjara’s mushrooms, skill, and the variety of crops growing in her Chester, N.Y. garden. “Beautiful how she blesses others with her produce,” said one garden peeper. “It was wonderful to see her respect for the land and desire to help others become stewards,” added another.

Attendees said Mele’s Vernon, N.J. garden looks like it should be in a magazine. “I love that she has out of the ordinary plantings: figs, artichokes and asparagus,” said one of the garden peepers. “It’s a lot of work and you can tell she is passionate about her garden.”

Bob and Rose Wolverton’s Hamburg, N.J. garden was voted “Most Hospitable.” Peepers were delighted to be met with zucchini appetizers at the Wolverton’s garden, and were thankful to leave the plot with new tips. “Bob and Rose, loved your hospitality. Truly appreciated Rose showing us winter sowing,” said one of the garden peepers. “So genuinely enthusiastic and informative,” added another. “I could have listened to you forever.”

Klaas Vogel’s thoughtfully constructed fruit and vegetable operation, which has been on the tour seven out of eight total years, took home the Editor’s Choice Award.

Common Ground Community Garden in Greenwood Lake, N.Y. is new to the tour this year and took the award for Best Community Garden. Peepers enjoyed seeing the spiral herb garden, and meeting with the passionate individuals who tend the plots.

“This was a great day. I made it to 13 of the gardens - all special,” said garden peeper Camille S. “A really great event. So glad it’s back!”