Published: 7/9/2020 11:37:04 AM
One hundred years ago, Greenfield elementary school students drank water from a bucket and dipper and played in a schoolyard in the center of town. Today, their school houses the town offices, and the Greenfield Community Organic Garden grows atop the former playground.
“It’s a really nice way of continuing the connection with the community and using this space for everyone,” gardener Bridget Wood said. The community garden has connected its members for about 15 years, and they share skills and resources while seeking new members and continued relevance in the community.
The now-disbanded Greenfield GIVErs founded the community garden in 2005, founding member Neil Brown said, during a swell of interest in home-grown food. The initial agreement with the Select Board required the garden be organic in part because the land sits on top of a major town aquifer, he said. Participant enthusiasm expanded the garden from five beds to its current 23.
Many participating gardeners are longtime enthusiasts and have home gardens as well, organizer and certified master gardener Linda Nickerson said. The garden members periodically host workshops from UNH extension professionals and regularly collaborate with the Stephenson Memorial Library for children’s programming, she said – library director David Bridgewater is a longtime gardener.
“In a garden sense, think of it as a rental garage, storage space – with the benefits of community,” Andre Wood, Bridget’s husband, said. The two have been gardening in the center of town for five years now, and they use the space to grow plants that wouldn’t grow at their own home. The lighting is better and the season is longer, and the soil, supplemented with compost, is more productive than at their house, he said.
The community aspect is a huge perk for Bridget. “We have wonderful conversations,” she said, and she gets access to decades of gardening experience, as well as surplus plant starts and ripe produce. Other members have taught her how to grow potatoes organically, and helped her brainstorm how to stake some “truly massive” tomato plants a couple years back.
Membership has dwindled recently, Nickerson said. She suspects that the prospect of committing to a garden could be daunting to people who have never tried it before. Members paid to use ten beds this year, an unexpectedly low number with so many families at home from work due to COVID-19 cancellations. For now, Nickerson and other gardeners are brainstorming ways to use the vacant plots to benefit the community, and she said she has an eye out for ways to operate the garden that would better suit the residents of Greenfield.
Membership dues are $10 per year per raised bed, which comes with rich, composted soil built up over the years, Nickerson said. “It’s easy to start gardening and it’s not as hard as you might think,” Bridget said, and that newcomers should set themselves up for success by starting small.