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Growing Gifts in the Giving Garden

By Diego Irizarry-Gerould

Last year, the Giving Garden produced over 6,500 pounds of food for our local community partners. This year, we’re aiming for even more!

Through the course of my six-month service term as a MassLIFT-AmeriCorps member, my main project with Grow Food Northampton is the Giving Garden. The Giving Garden is a half-acre mini vegetable farm. All of the food produced goes directly to local organizations that give out the food to whoever needs it (the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seaton Parish and MANNA soup kitchens, the Northampton Survival Center, the Easthampton Community Center, and Star Light Center). It feels good to be growing for a good cause: fresh, organic produce for the food insecure.

Freshly tilled soil at the Giving Garden
Preparing the beds

But on the ground right now, there won’t be anything to harvest for at least another month. All of my thoughts, plans, and energies are going into making that future food a reality. The open or grass-covered field blocks of the Giving Garden are slowly turning into neat beds, each 50 feet long and 30 inches wide. Tomatoes, only three weeks away from going in the ground, seem a distant promise. Closer to reality is the harvest of the cooler, earlier crops: spinach, beets, and lettuces. With the help of enthusiastic volunteers, I’ll apply twenty-five yards of compost to the fields to feed the soil. In the next week, we will plant the first beds of lettuce and cabbage – an exciting visible marker of progress!

I’m using all the small-scale farming knowledge and tools at my disposal, and constantly learning new methods of growing, like how to work cover crops into the plan and their incredible benefits for the soil. I love the process!

And the Giving Garden runs on volunteers, so come help out! I promise you will learn something new, get your hands dirty, and contribute in no small way to the thousands of pounds of food we’ll grow this year.

Contact Diego to learn how you can volunteer with the Giving Garden!

Diego with pile of compost, shovel, and wheelbarrow
Diego shoveling compost
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