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Florence Fields Recreational Area—Roundup Happened, What Next?

Protesting the broad scale application of Roundup on municipal fields that abut our organically-managed farmland and the Mill River, Grow Food Northampton pointed a spotlight on the issue of pesticide use in Northampton, awakening dormant public concern. Encouragingly, the Mayor and heads of the Public Works and Recreation Department are now studying how to manage turf at the Florence Fields Recreation Area organically.  Thanks to the pro bono expert consultation of Bernadette Giblin (founder of Safeground Organic Landcare) and Chip Osborne (owner of Osborne Organics), the City is learning how other communities like Marblehead and Newton, MA have made a cost-effective switch to maintaining healthy turf without the use of chemical amendments.  That is an excellent first step.

Meanwhile, GFN will continue its vital education and advocacy on this topic. While our online petition calling for the City of Northampton to employ organic turf management at the Florence Fields mounts toward 1800 signatures, GFN is now partnering with Bernadette Giblin to bring our shared concern of municipal pesticide use to Northampton’s Board of Health, urging them to take a leadership role.  Following the recommendation of the Massachusetts Pesticide Reduction Resource Guide, (published by the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection), Bernadette and GFN recently shared research on the dangers of pesticides to our Board of Health, presented tangible examples of other communities that have adopted organic pest management policies for their municipal land, and, in the coming months, will urge the Board to adopt a formal pesticide reduction policy.  We will keep you informed of our progress, and would greatly appreciate your financial and volunteer support as we dedicate organizational time and resources to this important effort.

As guardians of the Northampton Community Farm—which includes our natural resources, wildlife, farmers, gardeners and consumers–Grow Food Northampton believes that organic land care at Florence Fields will best safeguard our public and environmental health, protect our organic farmers and gardeners, and enhance the national admiration of the Bean/Allard Preservation Project of which Florence Fields, the Mill River Greenway, and the Northampton Community Farm are all part.  We will continue to advocate, educate, and collaborate with relevant City committees to move this issue forward with the full recognition that responsible management of municipal land is not merely our “pet issue”.  It is a much broader public health, water quality and sustainability issue that, we believe, our community is ready to tackle.

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