Cultivating Community: Boston’s 2024 Gardening Season Begins

The 2024 gardening season is finally here, shepherded in by the 48th annual Gardener’s Gathering hosted by The Trustees Boston Community Gardens and the City of Boston at Northeastern University.

Two people in blue jackets peer over a table with information on it. Three other people stand on the other side of the table, one person pointing to information on the table.
A large group of people gather in an exhibitors hall full of posters and tables mingling

Attendees take in the Exhibitor's Hall at the 48th annual Gardener's Gathering

The annual celebration of Boston’s gardening community featured workshops, exhibitors, networking, and awards. 

The 2024 Gathering

“This year was a special year,” shared Annabel Rabiyah, Regional Engagement Manager for Boston and Urban Outdoors. “We were honoring the 50th anniversary of the passing of the ‘Massachusetts Gardening and Farm Act’ by Mel King, who passed away in March of 2023. It was incredibly special to honor his life and legacy at the gathering.” 

In 1974, MA State Representative Mel King sponsored this important legislation and it passed into law. The act legally protected the rights of people to use vacant public land for farming and gardening and led the city of Boston to start the Revival program in 1975. The Revival program offered free services around clearing debris, adding topsoil, providing water, fencing, and planting advice for new growing spaces in the city. This opened doors for some of the first community gardens to officially open, such as the Berkeley Community Garden in the South End in 1976. 

The event was headlined by a panel of legacy gardeners highlighting the rich history of the community gardens and their inception. Many of the urban gardens in Boston are still tended to by their founders and other instrumental activists who have helped the spaces thrive. Garden elders Elnora Thompson, Julie Stone, Lolita Parker Jr., Sarah Hutt, Vivien Morris, and moderator Shani Fletcher spoke on food justice work in the City of Boston, and its past, present, and future through gardens. 

The plenary session also included remarks from Trustees CEO Katie Theoharides, and John Tobin, Northeastern’s Vice President of City and Community Engagement. Mayor of the City of Boston, Michelle Wu, presented this year’s honorees with awards for Rookie Garden of the Year, Most Valuable Garden of the Year, and a posthumous Hall of Fame Gardener award to Mel King. 

A woman with blonde hair in a grey vest speaks at a podium, with the audience in the foreground.

Trustees CEO Katie Theoharides speaks to attendees at the Gardener's Gathering.

A person in a denim jacket speaks at a podium, with the audience in the foreground.

The Trustees Annabel Rabiyah, Regional Engagement Manager for Boston and Urban Outdoors welcomes folks to the Gathering.


“Our community gardens today have social, nutritional, and place-based environmental benefits,” shared Theoharides. “But I think most importantly, community gardens are places of inclusion.” That rings true throughout the city but is exemplified in its highest degree by the year’s award winners.

This year’s winners included:

  • Rookie Garden of the Year: Upham’s Corner Food Forest, Dorchester
  • Most Valuable Garden: Lenox/Kendall Community Garden, South End
  • Hall of Fame Gardener: Mel King
Six people pose in a row, smiling at the camera, holding an award and potted plant

Mel King's legacy is honored at the 48th Gardener's Gathering.

Workshops & Exhibits

After the plenary, folks were able to attend over 16 workshops across three sessions, featuring a range of topics including Youth Action, Chicken Keeping101, and Native Pollinators, among others.  

“We do have some professionals come in to lead skill building workshops on different growing techniques, but a lot of the workshops are peer-to-peer,” explained Annabel. “We had an amazing line up of workshop presenters and this year we had a great turn out.” 

“It’s great when the professionals come in, and can offer their insight, but it’s also so special to have a community member who hasn’t had that platform before teaching a workshop filled with 60 people,” they continued. 

One of the most distinctive features of the gathering is the exhibitor’s hall, which offers attendees the chance to engage with local partner organizations throughout the day. This year, there were a record number of exhibitors, totaling16 organizations from across the city. 

“I love being able to offer a free conference that enables people of all walks of life to spontaneously learn,” shared Annabel. “A lot of our long-term garden leaders will be there every year, but the gathering also attracts people who might have never been to one of our events or are brand new gardeners or even just curious about what’s going on at the Trustees or what’s going on in the community gardens.” 

“We’re very grateful for the partnership we’ve built with Northeastern that allows for this level of flexibility for our attendees,” they continued. 

“Community gardens are one of our most popular offerings at The Trustees,” shared Theoharides. “In fact, they are so in demand that we are committed to increasing our growing space in Boston by 20 percent over the next five years.” Nowhere is it more evident the popularity of local urban gardening than at this annual celebration. 

Five panelists sit at two tables covered in purple tablecloths that say

The legacy gardener panel speaks during the plenary session of the 48th Gardener's Gathering.

The Season Ahead

As for what’s in store for the gardening season ahead, Annabel is eager to see programming continue to expand across the Trustees 56 community gardens.  

“The Gardener’s Gathering is sort of a launching point for a series of workshops that we’ll host across the season, and we have a bunch of workshops on the horizon I’m really excited about,” they shared. “Today we’re collaborating more with organizations across the city including other community gardens, health centers, and more.” 

The City Natives Plant Sale

Blooming garden with pergola in background

A Boston Community Garden

The gardens will host several flagship events including a Juneteenth celebration and climate justice programming, alongside staples of the Trustees like the South End Garden tour. The garden tour, which welcomes attendees into the private gardens of their neighbors in the City of Boston, is one of the biggest fundraisers for the community gardens around the city.  

To get your own garden started, join the Trustees for our annual City Natives plant sale, which is fast approaching! Get native perennials, trees, and shrubs; veggie and herb seedlings, soil amendments, and great advice.

100+ varieties of vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings along with 150+ species of native trees, shrubs, and perennials are available through the City Natives sale. Orders can be placed online starting mid-March for pickup in May. 

Pick up days for pre-orders placed online: May 9, 11, 16, 18. 9AM-3PM each day.
In-person shopping: May 22, 23, 24. 9AM-3PM each day.

Pre-orders are open now. Click here to place your order today!

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