By Francie Lin, GFN Writer-in-Residence I think everyone would rather forget the early pandemic days…
The Giving Garden has been put to bed for the winter. The garlic is planted and cover crops of winter rye, peas, and oats fill the rest of the garden to protect it through the winter. As we move into the cold weather, we reflect on the 2017 Giving Garden season.
The Giving Garden is a half -acre in size and produces sustainably-grown vegetables all for donation to local meal sites and food pantries. The produce was distributed to six different locations: the Saint Elizabeth Anne Seaton Parish and MANNA soup kitchens, the Northampton Survival Center, the Easthampton Community Center, Clinical & Support Options and Star Light Center. This year, we donated over 8,500 lbs of fresh food! We also grew 22 different varieties of vegetables and herbs including: spinach, beets, tomatoes, peppers, basil, summer squash, turnips, cilantro, and many more. In the chart below, you can see the number of pounds of each crop grown and which site it was donated to.
Diego Irizarry-Gerould and Ellena Baum, our TerraCorps-AmeriCorps Land Stewardship Coordinators, managed the production of the garden. Work in the garden includes: planning, seed and seedling orders, bed preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting, overseeing volunteeers, and management of cover crops and soil quality. Michael Skillicorn, Director of Programs, managed the distribution to our local partners.
“The produce is given away for free, but we put in the effort to provide pantries and soup kitchens – our community partners – with the highest quality produce, when they need it, delivered to their doors. We fill a niche by growing to meet their specific needs, whether it be fresh basil and ripe tomatoes for a caprese salad or crispy lettuce for a summer salad – items that are difficult to find from other sources.”
We had 45 wonderful volunteers and 2 interns that made the work we do possible. Our volunteers gave 360 hours of their time this year! One of Ellena’s favorite aspects of her work in the Giving Garden is the early morning volunteer hours. If you are interested in volunteering with us in the future, please check out our volunteer page.
One of our long time community gardeners, Alison Childs and her daughter Sadie Cora, volunteered their time to put on a pickling workshop at one of our community partners, Starlight. We accidentally got the wrong
cucumber starts from the nursery and it turned out we had a few rows of pickling cucumbers instead of slicers. We reached out to Starlight about the idea of organizing a workshop. Starlight provided the jars and other ingredients, and we provided the cucumbers. The workshop was a hit and they ended up making tons of delicious pickles. This experience highlights our interconnected approach to engaging with the community.
To wrap up our 2017 Giving Garden season, we had a lovely appreciation dinner where volunteers and Grow Food Northampton staff gathered. We had a potluck style dinner, sang a traditional work song, Moto Wayaka, and shared some favorite moments from the season. There was already excitement building for next spring!