Just Roots asking for extension

  • Just Roots on Tuesday afternoon off Leyden Road in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2019 11:30:34 PM

GREENFIELD — Sitting in a Main Street office with $11 and change in their bank account, Jessica O’Neill and the board of directors of the newly formed Just Roots began to map out a vision for a community farm. 

Eight years later Just Roots is now looking to become a greater fixture in the community with a $350,000 annual budget as it expands its functions from a place for the community to grow food to addressing community health needs. 

O’Neill, now the executive director of Just Roots, will go before the Greenfield City Council tonight asking for an extension of its lease of the city-owned land just off Leyden Road. If approved, the nonprofit organization will have rights to the land through 2048. 

“We’re a much more mature group now,” O’Neill said. “It was time to think about where do we need to invest.”

The 30-year lease, which includes the remaining seven years on the initial 15-year lease, was first presented to the council in January. Faced with questions of a plastic bag ban, the conversation was pushed off to February. 

In December the council agreed to give Just Roots $25,000 along with a state grant to refurbishing its barn.

A longer lease will help the organization grow and attract more funding, O’Neill said. 

Currently, Just Roots has 67 plots for families and agencies to use, production fields where they grow the food for the Greenfield Farmers Market and a Community Supported Agriculture Shares program. The goal for the 2019 season is to have 250 members for the CSA. Typically three people, like a family, benefit from the food from a CSA, O’Neill said, so this could benefit about 750 people. 

In the last two years the farm has been working with researchers to understand health benefits a CSA can have. The work from this research, which is being analyzed currently at the University of North Carolina, has allowed O’Neill and Just Roots to begin to branch out into public policy. 

“For Just Roots, this little mighty organization, to be playing an influential role in that space is incredibly empowering and brings a lot of joy,” O’Neill said.

Looking into the future when this lease could end, O’Neill said she hopes that the farm can grow from just producing food to becoming a community hub, where it starts to become a “center for our community to build health and wellness of all the broad brushstrokes that it creates.”

Greenfield Recorder

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Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
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