Our Organic Community Garden is now put to bed for the season: the water has been turned off, the watering cans have been stored, the outhouse is closed, and plot checks are complete. Gardeners have planted garlic and bulbs, and established cover crops or laid down mulch. As snow covers the garden and the year comes to an end, we reflect on the busy and fruitful year.
Despite a hot, dry summer, the Garden has continued to thrive. We did not add new plots in 2016, choosing to maintain the count at 265 – 270 (depending on half-plot vs. full-plot preferences) until we see increased community demand. We had close to 400 people gardening regularly, with low-income discounts (paying $8 instead of $33) applied to 30 plots, and senior discounts (paying $25) applied to 21 plots.
Gardener Survey results are still coming in, but we want to share a few preliminary results from the 89 responses thus far.
We had at least 20 gardeners who have been with us for five seasons, all of whom we hope to see return in 2017! Over 80% of respondents use the Community Garden because they don’t have space at home to grow food, and over half use the Garden as a way to participate in community activity. Over 70% indicated that they eat more fruits and vegetables thanks to their plot, and 75% eat more organic food. Over 60% said they spend less money on food, and over 85% feel better about where their food comes from. The most commonly grown produce was greens (lettuce, kale, chard, etc.), with tomatoes a close second, and culinary herbs coming in third. And what a year for tomatoes! Overall, results to date show very high levels of satisfaction with the garden’s amenities and management, and demonstrate that collectively, our gardeners manifested the “Grow Food Northampton” moniker by growing many tons of food and saving many thousands of dollars in grocery costs, while improving their diet and exercise and building a sense of community.
We had many active Garden Teams (Advisors, Mowing, Outhouse, Community Plantings, Giving Garden), and documented over 1,000 Community Service hours! We also hosted a number of events and workshops. For example: Rattlesnake Gutter Timberworks taught a timber framing class that built a new shed, Sarah Buteaux hosted dinner at the garden for a group of pastors from the Common Ground food ministry who helped in the Giving Garden, Fred Morrison found a rare species of bee residing in our hedgerow, a rare moth was spotted by another individual in the garden, many gardeners helped our Giving Garden donate over three and a quarter tons of produce to local organizations that help address food-insecurity, gardeners Bruce Hart and Ilene Goldstein led bird walks, gardener Bruce Frankl led a bio-char workshop, David Lovler led a workshop on composting in place, gardener Paige Bridgens led the effort to restore and expand the edible hedgerow, gardener Tish Petrushka designed the NEW Medicinal Herb Garden, Grow Food Northampton donors had brunch at the Garden to see how their donations helped, gardeners celebrated the growing season at our annual Veggie Fling, and so much more!
Next year we plan to continue to offer fun events, informative workshops, fertile soil, and a wonderful space for our community to grow healthy, organic produce. And as a reminder, new gardeners interested in getting a plot in 2017 can email Community Garden and Food Access manager Pat James. Re-registration for returning gardeners will begin in January, so keep an eye out for an email in the new year!
I am so grateful for such a beautiful place to garden. I love the tranquility and solitude, as well as the comradery.
I shared a great deal of kale, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, butternut squash, and potatoes with friends and family. That was very rewarding!
The [discounted] low income fee made it possible [for me to have a plot in the garden].
I love stopping at the garden on my way home from work. I find myself relaxing and enjoying finally being outside and saying hi to my garden neighbors. Then when done I can harvest and bring fresh food home for dinner. I feel very lucky!
The best choice I made for myself 2 years ago. The garden is my "happy place."
I continue to be amazed by the high quality of the management of the garden, and by the spirit in which it is conducted. Bravo!
I found my overall experience of the garden to be one of pleasure and fondness. I will be back next season with bells on my toes.