I definitely know that I love my job when I am more excited than ever for the growing season to begin, my fifth at Gaining Ground. And by “begin” I mean “continue,” as we have been harvesting and distributing fresh produce throughout the winter months.
At the end of last season, we finally decided to go for it. We took the leap to transition the farm into permanent no-till raised beds. “No-till” is the practice of growing crops without disturbing the soil. We discovered this method after constructing our first hoop house late in the winter of 2013.
After eight seasons with us, Kayleigh Boyle has moved on to Gibbet Hill Farm in Groton. We’re grateful for her many contributions here and wish her well in her next stages of growth.
Gaining Ground has been part of my life since I was 22. It is hard to believe it’s been eight years. I remember so clearly meeting the farm coordinator, Verena Wieloch, for the first time and taking a walk through the snow-covered March fields. She reassured me that it didn’t look like much at the time, but just wait until the fields were in full bloom.
Improving Soil, Increasing Yields
In 2014, Gaining Ground was awarded a $30,000 three-year grant from the Winning Home Foundation to be used for a soil revitalization project. Winning Home is a private, non-profit charitable organization that provides services and support to children and their families who are economically, socially, physically, emotionally, or mentally handicapped or disadvantaged.
For the first time ever, we grew and harvested fresh produce throughout the winter, thanks to improved infrastructure and evolving farming practices. Just as the crops were ready to pick, we discovered that Mill City Grows in Lowell was in short supply of fresh, locally grown vegetables for its nutritional cooking classes.
Did you volunteer at Gaining Ground last year? If so, you were one of more than 3,000 volunteers who contributed to 7,500-plus hours of planting, weeding, watering, and carefully tending the rainbow of produce on Gaining Ground’s farm.
Looking back through the winter months, we want to thank those who helped us move forward.
Join us in welcoming new staff and board members.
Our March 4, Maple Sugaring Open House landed on a day with frigid temperatures.
I heard on the radio that the average 30-year-old spends five hours a day on their smart phone. As I turned 30 this year, this fact gave me pause. How does this technology fit into my daily life as a farmer? And what is my relationship between farming and technology?
For the past six years, Gaining Ground has focused on making our farm more productive. Our efforts have been concentrated on the inputs: soil amendments, a well and irrigation, deer fencing, and a barn. It’s easy to measure the success of those inputs: We have doubled our production to 60,000 pounds of organic produce and welcome over 3,000 volunteers annually to work on the farm.
This year, Gaining Ground welcomed over 150 people to the farm for our Community Harvest Celebration on Sunday, September 19. Della’s Dinner offered a locally sourced menu of sandwiches, salads, and irresistible desserts, while Twisted Pine, a popular, local, new roots band, entertained the crowd from the volunteer pavilion. Bass player Chris Sartori had been a volunteer at the farm years ago while in high school.
How fortunate we are that Liza Connolly, chef and co-founder of Kids Cooking Green, has volunteered to pick up and help prepare our produce weekly during this fall’s pilot partnership program with Waltham Boys and Girls Club (WBGC). With a mission to inspire youth to reach their full potential, WBGC offers a welcoming space weekdays and holidays for athletics, creativity, social recreation, and community service. These activities require energy fueled by good food, yet for many of its members, hunger and nutrition are a daily challenge.
This is a farm to feed neighbors, a civic investment for long-term yields without the government’s hand in the matter. This is about respect for land and food, and the dignity of people who have neither.
Why do I volunteer at Gaining Ground? Interesting question. I started there because I was looking for a way to be useful in this world. I stayed because I get more than I give.
I hail from the Great American Midwest, near Chicago to be exact, and have always been interested in things agricultural and outdoors, due in part I suppose to having grown up on that rapidly moving boundary between housing and agriculture, as well as having spent summers on my great uncle’s farm in Marengo, Ill. Relocating to New England for college, I continued to be fascinated by gardening. I also made occasional forays into related ventures, such as raising a few turkeys and farming with an antique tractor.