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Reflections on the 2021 Giving Garden Season

By Ellena Baum, Land and Community Education Manager

Last week, one of our elementary school students in a virtual ‘field trip’ to the farm asked me what my favorite vegetable was to grow this year. Great question. Hard to answer because, of course, I love them all. This year we grew 33 different crops in our half-acre Giving Garden. Some of the vegetable highlights were: our first significant asparagus harvest from our prolific plants and our most abundant strawberries yet.

This season our tomatoes persevered through a soggy, saturated July, producing over a thousand pounds of ten different tomato varieties. The basil also surprised us all, persisting through the soaking rains, with one of our mildew-resistant varieties lasting all the way through to October. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to keep delivering crates of delicious smelling basil to our community partners long after our cucumbers and zucchini had succumbed to pests and disease – numerous moments like this all summer left me feeling like the ice cream truck driver who still has everyone’s favorite flavor of the week. 

As always, our garden could not have been possible without our dedicated volunteers, both new and returning. Our enthusiastic team of interns from Smith College, and Northampton High School kept at it in all conditions, rain or shine, to plant, seed, tend, and harvest, immersively learning about all facets of the growing season. 

This year we continued to offer community workshops in the Giving Garden on themes of regenerative farming and gardening, led by our staff and guest teachers, including Carla Shafer, Diego Irizarry-Gerould of Song Sparrow Farm, Fred Morrison, Faith Deering, and Tom Goldscheider. We gathered to learn about garden bed preparation in the spring and cover cropping in the fall. We inoculated shiitake and oyster mushroom logs, and we learned about the behaviors and patterns of the native bee species thriving in the community garden. We culminated the season with our harvest of sugar beets and flax in the fall to continue learning and lifting up our local abolitionist history with the David Ruggles Center. 

Now that our garlic is in the ground, and the first string of frosts has finally come, we can definitively mark the end of our growing season in the Giving Garden. This season’s erratic weather patterns, and the trending warmer temperatures this fall only instill in me more motivation and inspiration to keep planting, growing, and learning how to farm in a way that is adaptive and regenerative. In this age of climate chaos, it is salient for us to continue doing the work to become increasingly resilient in our local food system. 

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