Just Roots helps make Greenfield green

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

Published: 2/28/2019 11:12:22 AM

Many local organizations help Greenfield live up to its name. Just Roots is just one, but one that appears to be growing and flowering.

The nonprofit began in 2008 as a grassroots community group of concerned citizens looking to promote vegetable gardening and to grow food on municipal land.

Just Roots says its goal is to increase knowledge about and demand for local food in Franklin County, with the Greenfield Community Farm as the centerpiece of its work.

And for several years now, the organization has been doing that by providing space for individual community garden plots at the city’s former poor farm property off Leyden Road.

Since the 1950s, the city had rented the land to local farmers, mainly to grow feed corn. In 2009, a partnership of several of those other area organizations that make Greenfield green – Pleasant Street Community Garden and Greening Greenfield among them – arranged to preserve the 61 acres through the state Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, and in 2011, Just Roots was awarded a 15-year lease to expand community gardens into a Greenfield Community Farm.

Since then, Just Roots has broadened its mission to more broadly increase access to healthy, local food by “connecting people, land, resources and know-how.”

Just Roots does that with help of grants and other fundraising that supports a $350,000 annual budget as it expands its functions from a place for the community to grow food to also addressing community health needs generally.

Just Roots has asked the Greenfield City Council to extend its lease for another 30 years to give it the stability it needs to lay long-term plans and to secure long-term financial assistance like grants. We trust the council will grant the request because we can see no down side. Just Roots can be a significant player in Greenfield’s efforts to become greener still and a leader in the sustainability movement in this evolving world of climate change.

In December, the council agreed to give Just Roots $25,000 along with a state grant to refurbish its barn. Granting it a longer lease on life is the next logical move.

Currently, Just Roots has 67 plots for families and agencies to use, production fields where they grow food for sale at the Greenfield Farmers Market and a Community Supported Agriculture Shares program. The goal for the 2019 season is to have 250 members buying food through the CSA.

In the last two years, the Just Roots farm has been working with researchers to understand health benefits a CSA can bring to its shareholders. The work from this research, which is being analyzed currently at the University of North Carolina, has allowed Just Roots to begin to branch out into areas of public policy and public education around food issues.

Looking into the future when this lease could end, Jessica O’Neill, the group’s executive director, said she hopes that the community 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….”

That would be great, and we hope the city’s leaders and its residents will continue to nourish that dream, making Greenfield greener still.


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