By Francie Lin, GFN Writer-in-Residence I think everyone would rather forget the early pandemic days…
The 2018 Giving Garden has been put to bed, with a blanket of peas and oats as cover. Garlic for next spring is being planted later this week. While the weather presented some challenges this year, the Giving Garden lived up to its name, providing thousands of pounds of high-quality organic produce to local meal sites and food pantries.
This year the half-acre Giving Garden was led by Ellena Baum, beginning as a TerraCorps service member and finishing as our newest employee and Local Food Educator. Under Ellena’s guidance, the garden grew as a place of connection. At the beginning of the season, people came together to learn about cultivating mushrooms themselves while also inoculating logs that will grow shiitakes at the garden in the future. Throughout the season, the garden was lucky to host vibrant and talented interns and work study students from Smith College, Mount Holyoke College and Reed College as well as a teen group from Abundance Farm. Relationships were also formed with the strong group of volunteers who gave hundreds of hours of their time to the garden throughout the season.
Young people visited the garden in the spring during a series of field trips. From early morning volunteer hours to beat the heat, to spirited groups of school children, the Giving Garden was a hub of people interacting around a common mission: providing healthy local produce to those who need it.
This year we grew 25 different types of vegetables and herbs, delivering over 8,000 pounds of produce was donated to our partners! The most abundant crops were lettuce, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, herbs and greens. The chart below shows the pounds of each type of vegetable delivered to each partner organization. As regular deliveries began, we enjoyed our weekly interactions with local partners.
The majority of our produce was donated to the Northampton Survival Center, MANNA Soup Kitchens, Star Light Center and the Easthampton Community Center. We also contributed food to Abundance Farm, Clinical & Support Options and our own Red Bag Share. It was rewarding to hear about what the kitchens were cooking up with our herbs and veggies, and to see our vegetables show up transformed into gourmet meals on the MANNA Facebook page!
“I can’t tell you how much fun it is to cook with the awesome produce from Grow Food Northampton! Today’s tomato pie was a dream! Thank you for your generosity.” -MANNA Soup Kitchen
Work in the garden includes: planning, seed and seedling orders, bed preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting, overseeing volunteers, and management of cover crops and soil quality. Ellena worked with NOFA-MA to incorporate new soil analysis and altered practices to reduce tillage, providing a small-scale example of vegetable growing practices that increase soil carbon.
We are grateful to our donors who support our food access programs and to the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, whose grant has supported the Giving Garden and our other food access programs for the past three seasons.