ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Jon Homuth has been volunteering his time and effort to manage the Katy Leary Community Garden on Elmira’s Southside since 2010. It’s located on Connelly Street next to Katy Leary Park and the Chemung River. Mr. Homuth, an 80-year-old retired pediatrician, says he wants to find a new manager so he can hang up his gardening tools. He has been looking for his replacement for more than a year.

“I’m willing to continue on for a while. But I’m also thinking of retiring from the gardening trade,” Homuth said. “I’m trying to find a manager for the garden. I’ve been doing this over 13 years. I’m 80 years old. I would love to have someone who really is interested in gardening. It’s a really low-level time consumption and you’re not paid.”

Homuth helped lead a community effort that transformed old tennis courts into a new vegetable and flower garden.

“Jim Pfiffer from River Friends was looking for a garden along the river, to beautify the river I guess. When I retired, I thought, well, maybe I could start a community garden,” said Homuth.

Volunteers, donations from businesses, and the City of Elmira all pitched in to make it a reality. Homuth says the City tore up the old tennis courts and laid down new soil. The City also fixed up the fencing around the garden. Chemung Soil and Water donated lumber. The county’s carpenter’s union donated their time to build the raised garden beds.

“Well, there’s 64 raised beds and we have over 20 to 24 gardeners,” said Homuth. “Some people just have one bed, but some people actually have four beds, and they plant whatever they want to. We have a shed here that has equipment in it, gardening tools, wheelbarrows, the City put in water so we have four water spigots. Some people grow just flowers. One person grew a lot of herbs. But most people grow some kind of produce. Tomatoes, carrots, onions, are probably the staples.”

“I think it’s an absolutely wonderful place to have a garden,” said Richard Share after pulling out fresh carrots from his garden bed. “I think Jon has done a beautiful job as managing it. This is a wonderful opportunity that has been provided for us and I appreciated it over the many years that I’ve done it now. I hope we get another manager in here as good as Jon was and help take care of the place for us old guys.

Here is the job description posted by Mr. Homuth:

Garden Manager Job Description

  • Assign garden plots. Maintain a list of “owners,” their plot number(s) and telephone numbers.
  • Call previous summer’s gardeners to learn if they wish to continue to garden. Plot “owners”keep the same beds as previously used.
  • Unwanted beds are then offered to people on a waiting list. Usually word of mouth elicits new requests. Often about 2-4 are on that list. Sometimes current gardeners want another bed. If more people are needed, a notice could perhaps be put in the paper. (I have never needed to do that).
  • Do minor maintenance, i.e., repaint bed numbers, trim some light brush around fence, replace combination lock when it breaks.
  • Mow between the beds. The current manager shares this with the gardener who also donated the self-propelled mower. (The City has recently been coming to mow the large open areas. Some minor mowing is needed between the beds).
  • Obtain volunteers to help clean up in the fall. The main job is removing the large amount of dead vegetable plants, weeds, and brush from next to the shed. A call to Elmira’s Building and Grounds has gotten a dump truck or dumpster to the garden to fill and be hauled away.

If you are interested in volunteering to become the new garden manager, or if you want to learn more about having your own garden bed, Jon Homuth says you can call him at 607-329-7875 or send an email to: homuthjon@yahoo.com