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South Side man is turning a vacant lot into a community garden

Published: Fri, May 24, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

By David Skolnick



The 15 tons of horse manure that cover a vacant Hillman Street lot certainly has an overwhelming smell, but to Mason Carratt, it’s a sweet aroma.

Carratt, whose Idlewood Avenue home abuts the lot at 3406 Hillman St., has spent the past year cleaning the overgrown, garbage-filled parcel. A house at that address was demolished a few years ago.

“I was tired of looking at it, so I’d fill a couple of bags of garbage [from the vacant parcel] and throw it out with my trash,” Carratt said.

Carratt, who has lived at his home since September 2009, found 80 tires along with concrete, bricks, roofing materials and lumber in the overgrown field.

But, he said, he wanted to do more.

Not only did he take care of the garbage and overgrown grass, he’s created a vegetable and fruit garden on the lot that has vacant houses on either side and an empty parcel directly across the street.

Carratt recently had 15 tons of horse manure donated to fertilize the area.

He’d already grown the seeds of the fruits and vegetables — watermelons, cucumber, squash, lettuce, collard greens, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn and lettuce, among others — and started planting them Wednesday.

“I took a vacant lot that was trashed, cleaned it up and put an inner-city garden on it [hoping] to help,” Carratt said. “I’ll continue planting them until I run out. I have over 1,000 plants. It’s urban gardening. Every square inch will be occupied by a plant.”

The inner-city garden on the city’s South Side also is a place for senior citizens and the disabled who live at the nearby Grovewood Manor to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, Carratt said. Also, he wants to donate all of the food to those who live there.

“It’s a great place for those of us who live here to have a place to get our hands dirty and grow fruit and vegetables,” said C.B. Jack Dickinson III, who’s lived at the manor since May 2010. “It’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for years. It will be for residents who are interested. This looks like a great project.”

Carratt, injured in an accident four years ago that damaged his left foot, started gardening shortly after that incident to help reduce his food expenses. Carratt, who acknowledges he is a recovering alcoholic and drug user who served time in prison, said the inner-city garden is one way to help others who have similar backgrounds.

Helping Carratt is Barb Kurlinski of Boardman, an avid gardener.

“I help do what I can,” she said. “If he needs straw, hay or a rake, I run and get them. People will come together and have pride living here because of the garden. Also, the economy is really bad. If we can help people a little bit here and there, it will be beneficial.”

“If people want to change their environment, all it takes is a little willpower to help other people by cleaning up the area where you live,” Carratt added.

Besides helping people, Carratt said fixing up the blighted property “is really good for your soul. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.”

Alexander James, president of the Dream Team block watch whose Hillman Street house is across the street from the vacant lot, said he “supports the efforts” as long as the garden doesn’t violate city codes.


1Helpinghands4utoday(4 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

Making trellises today, hope to get them installed. Just to let you people know it is possible to change if you want to. If Anybody wants to help feel free to stop by the garden, always something to do. Can only give you free vegetables for your help. All the produce that comes from that Garden is going to 'Our' Disabled and Elderly for FREE.

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2Helpinghands4utoday(4 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

We also could use as much seasoned Mulch that could be delivered, and bales of straw. To build up the raised beds for Our disabled to work out of their wheelchairs we would need a massive amount of 2x12's and maybe 20 yards of topsoil. Any help would be appreciated thank you. Have a great day. You can reach me at 234.855.0259 or e-mail helpinghands4utoday@yahoo.com thanks again God Bless

Make sure to put Inner-City Garden in Subject line to avoid spam if you e-mail me.

If you are in need of Free Vegetables and You are Elderly, Disabled or a Wounded Warrior you can contact me to be added to the list. We have Volunteer Drivers to help distribute the produce as it comes in.

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3CCarratt(1 comment)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

I am so proud of Mason for all he does for his community! Others who have been in his situation should get involved with the gardens and show others how lives can be turned around and be a positive influence in the community.

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4pgurney(296 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

Kudos to Mr. Carratt for turning his life around and becoming a productive and helpful member of society. You, sir, are living breathing proof that it can be done. Good luck to you and all of those helping you with the community garden. Many prayers for great success!

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5DwightK(1488 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

Here is proof that getting out and doing something positive is infinitely better for the community than sitting on your porch complaining. Kudos to Mr. Carratt.

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6misterlee(118 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

You complain about the community organizers who get paid a salary. You complain about the crappy condition of the city. But you personally do nothing about it but complain. People who choose to spend their careers improving the community should be allowed to take a salary if private institutions want to give them grant money to pay those salaries. Go do something useful with your life and quit bitching about everyone else you whiny turd.

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7WhatRUAfraidOf(85 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

I think it's great that Mr. Carratt is doing this. It was so nice to read something uplifting about someone in Y-town trying to improve his neighborhood "just because" rather than the no-goodnicks we hear about most of the time. We need more stories about these things, because I know they happen all over the area.

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8CBDickinson(1 comment)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

Hi This is CB Dickinson I am working with Mason. I have the plans for the Disabled Growing Beds. We need help in obtaining the wood and other materials to make the raised beds for people like myself who are in wheelchairs. We also are looking for donations to help take the garden to the next step. We are working on obtaining the deed to the lot so we can keep the land for growing. We also need donation for other things that we need. You make contact myself or Mason if you want to help. My phone number is 234-855-0855

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9jlk213(2 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

I think it is INCREDIBLE what you folks are doing, and also doing it out of your care and concern for our city and citizens. Well done! A glowing example of how amazing things could become with a lot more people doing what you're doing! :) I am so inspired and would love to help you out in any way I can, I will be emailing you

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10Helpinghands4utoday(4 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

I am getting a bank account set up if anyone wants to help out, send check or money orders 3411 Idlewood Ave. Youngstown Ohio 44511. Make the check out to Youngstown,Ohio Inner-City Gardening ,Helping "Our"Elderly and Disabled. https://www.facebook.com/messages/#!/... I am running out of wood that I have saved up to build the Trellises. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb... Thank you All for your positive feedback. I would hope this might catch on and people will start helping one another again. We the people can change our enviroment. I am not profit motivated nor I do I have a political agenda what I do I do out of love and compassion for doing the next right thing for those that are suffering.I to am disabled but I do not use it as a excuse to do nothing. I work a little then rest , my will to live is by far my drive to enjoying helping others.

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11Helpinghands4utoday(4 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

I had just thought of Home Depot or Lowes Gift Cards would work out too. If it is easier. They are good Nation Wide. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend and remember those who have fallen to have made our lives the way it is today.

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