By Francie Lin, GFN Writer-in-Residence I think everyone would rather forget the early pandemic days…
Community Gardeners are an important constituency at Grow Food Northampton, and we are grateful for their contributions to the strength of the local food system by getting their hands in our soil. This week, summer intern Mikayla Henzel spoke to one of our several hundred gardeners about their connection to the garden.
Gardener: Jack Sweeney-Taylor
Here’s a little background about Jack!
Where is he from? Groton, MA
What inspired him to take on a plot? Jack had lots of friends who had plots and saw that they got a lot out of it. He too wanted a space where he could harvest lots of vegetables.
How did he hear about the community garden? His friends let him know about the community garden! Prior to his friends moving to Florence, they had been involved in organic farming communities.
How long has he had the plot? Jack has had a plot with Grow Food Northampton since 2014.
A word from Jack!
What do you grow? I grow a lot of leafy greens, and hardier greens like kale and collards. Those are kind of staples because they do so well and produce so much and they are good to eat. Also I grow sugar snap peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers – both sweet and hot. This year I grew onions, but they have been dying before they are full, I am not sure why. Maybe I did not water them enough, but they still have little bulbs; some of them are still alive though. I also planted garlic last fall which came up nicely. Lots of herbs, I like parsley, cilantro, and basil and then I have sage and chives. This year I have a lot of squash and I planted some watermelon and pumpkin this year too, which is kind of taking over. Root vegetables also, like carrots and radishes. I do not have a lot of success with radishes, it seems like the plant grows too big and the roots are small. Beets, parsnips, dill, and cabbage as well.
What is your favorite thing to grow and why? Well, I feel like the easiest thing to grow is the kale and collard greens, and actually arugula and lettuce to some extent too are easy. They are cut-and-grow and require so little work. But I do not think that necessarily makes it my favorite thing to grow, just I appreciate them. I feel like tomatoes are special plants to grow, maybe because the fruit is so delicious and the tomato plant smells good. There is a little bit of care you need to give them, like pruning and watching out for them.
The tomato plant smells good and it reminds me of when I was a kid and picking a tomato.”
What have you learned at the community garden? I have learned a lot. I have not ever had my own garden; I have worked on gardens but I have not had the space and intention to grow a plot of land that I have sustained over time. Some of the lessons have been that I have mostly felt that I lead a fairly busy life and sometimes it can feel like there is no part of gardening that is not overwhelming in some way. Getting the stuff in the ground in the spring, and watering and weeding in the summer. Harvesting itself is a lot of work and then you have a lot of fresh vegetables in your fridge and you have to process them and eat them. I has made me aware that a garden is a lot of work.
You need to figure out a relationship with the garden.”
What is your favorite garden experience? One of the benefits of the community garden is having other people around. It is nice to run into people I know around here. In some ways some nice moments are being able to wander into the raspberry bramble, it is such a nice thing to have.
Do you have a favorite tool or technique that other gardeners may like to know about? I have grow to appreciate the weeding tool that looks like a stirrup, the stirrup hoe. You run it across the ground and it pulls weeds up by the root.
As a new gardener I have really wanted to do things really well, but I think in some ways it seems like a lesson is to not worry too much and take what it produces and then give some of it away and feel really good about the having the plot.”
Speaking with Jack was a pleasure and Grow Food Northampton thanks him for choosing our Community Garden to grow his roots!
The Community Garden is a very special part of Grow Food Northampton. It gives many residents of Northampton and nearby towns the ability to garden, whether or not they have land at home, are looking for a peaceful environment to spend time in or are unable to afford starting their own garden. With increased accessibility to gardening at Grow Food Northampton, the benefits are endless; people are able to grow food to feed their families and garden with a sense of community.