Between the Rows: Cultivating food
The Greenfield Community Farm out on Glenbrook Road actually comprises four gardens. First, there is a production market garden, operated by grant-funded David Paysnick and his assistant Daniel Berry, that grows produce for sale through the Just Roots CSA at the Farmers Market and at Green Fields Coop. This garden includes a greenhouse where seeds are started in the spring and a high-tunnel greenhouse that extends the season for tomatoes and exotic crops like ginger. Extra vegetable starts and seeds are given to the Food for All Garden.
The market garden makes use of interns, from high school and college students to older people who sign up for a season. There are spring chores, including working in the greenhouse and soil prep, summer chores, including weeding, succession planting and preparing produce for sale, and fall chores, including marketing, farm upkeep and mentoring a younger person. A full description of these internships is on the justroots.org website.
A second garden, unpoetically named The Education Site, is a colorful demonstration garden created by students, parents and educators where students ages 8 to 18 can engage in meaningful and creative work on the land.
Shelly Beck, community garden coordinator, oversees the final two gardens. These are the community garden plots tended by their gardeners and the Food For All Garden that grows produce for the Stone Soup Cafe and the Center for Self Reliance food pantry. I visited with Beck to see how the first growing season and harvest went.
“Pretty well!” she said with joyful enthusiasm. I could see that the better part of the harvest had been gathered in, but cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale were still growing as were a few squash plants. Bright nasturtiums and marigolds bloomed here and there. Even hard-core vegetable gardeners can’t resist a few brilliant flowers. It looked like a productive season to me.
The 50 community garden plots come in two sizes, 20 by 20 feet, and 20 by 10 feet. These plots were cultivated by experienced gardeners and novices. Some people were interested in vegetables, some only wanted flowers, and some were particularly passionate about herbs. A Daisy troop took possession of one plot and inmates from the Kimball House, the Franklin County Jail’s re-entry program, cultivated another.
Volunteers built a handsome garden shed to hold tools (they can use more tools and wheelbarrows), and there is a drilled well to supply that all-important element — water. Soil amendments are also available for plot holders. For those with the need, there are also high-raised beds to plant.
“The Food for All plot has really been my plot this year,” Beck said. “But I’ve had lots of volunteers helping. Kimball House guys spend two mornings a week here and community groups call and come. We even had a ‘weed-dating’ session!”
For those who are not part of the dating scene, weed dating is an event where attendees spend a very few minutes talking to each other, exchanging cards and then moving on to the next weeding job. “It’s more fun to chat over the weeds,” Beck said. “We’ll probably do it again and we’d like more men to come.”
Beck had to explain to me that the Stone Soup Cafe is the pay-what-you-can cafe that is held every Saturday at noon at All Soul’s Church. Volunteers cook and serve up a delicious and nutritious lunch. Those who can, leave a donation. Even those who cannot attend can send a donation to help cover costs.
Beck has taken an interesting road to bring her to the Greenfield Community Farm. She grew up in Massachusetts, but it was at Evergreen College in Washington State that she began taking eco-agricultural courses. “Evergreen immersed me in the world of growing things and sustainability. I never dreamed that organic would one day be so much of our culture so that you can buy organic produce at the Stop and Shop.”
In 1996, she moved back to Massachusetts and found a real home in Greenfield. She was a single mother with a child but she found housing at Leyden Woods, where she started her first community garden. She began working at Green Fields Market and said she really felt the community taking care of her. She worked as a science teacher at the middle school and at Enterprise Farm. “It was a great place to see what farmers are doing on a big scale.” While she was there, she helped put together the Mobile Market, which brought fresh produce to senior centers, a YMCA and housing projects.
Nowadays, Beck’s day job is pantry coordinator at the Amherst Survival Center, which offers free health care and a free store in addition to a free lunch and regular pantry food distribution. She worked with local farmers and made sure that the food pantry offered fresh produce as well as the regular nonperishable foods.
Fall Festival Oct. 27
If you have a garden, you must celebrate the harvest. This is doubly true if you have a big garden, with many gardeners big and small. Sunday, Oct. 27, the Greenfield Community Farm is hosting a Fall Festival with workshops, a farm tour, garlic planting and a pot- luck meal. All are invited to come and learn more about the gardens and celebrate this first of many harvests. The website www.justroots.org. has full information about the Fall Festival and all the gardens.
Readers can leave comments at Pat Leuchtman’s Web site: www.commonweeder.com. Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980.