I am writing this after the sun has gone down on the longest day of the year. Looking back on the day, it seems like a lot can be done with fifteen hours of light fueling you.
All of us farmers started the morning with our regular Tuesday walk around, observing how the fields have changed over the weekend (a lot, mainly weeds).
Although it was just the seed of an idea in March, June’s rollout of produce to our partner organizations is now transitioning into a steady weekly rhythm of harvesting, washing, boxing, weighing and loading. Our partners include:
- Tuesdays: Head Start, House of Hope, Loaves & Fishes, Pine Street Inn, Sudbury Food Pantry
- Thursdays: Bedford Food Pantry, Open Table Concord, Rosie’s Place, Westford Community Housing
- Saturdays: Food for Families, Lowell Transitional Living Center, Open Table Maynard
This year Gaining Ground welcomed two talented, hard-working individuals to our Board: Theresa Cohen and Elisabeth Elden.
Did you know that Project Bread’s 2014 Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts found that the food insecurity rate has increased by 71% over the past ten years?
This year, Gaining Ground will be participating in the Three Squares New England Ride for Food, a bike ride that raises funds to eliminate hunger in New England.
On a blustery Sunday in May, Gaining Ground donors and friends gathered to celebrate our completed barn.
This new structure will advance all aspects of our mission and will be the center of life at the farm. Our barn will protect our equipment and supplies — the essentials for growing more food. It will provide produce storage areas, enabling us to harvest vegetables at their peak and to keep them fresher longer so we can distribute more food. It will provide shelter for our ever-growing number of volunteers, allowing them to gather and work in all kinds of weather.
Spring at Gaining Ground reminds me of the beginning of Richard Wilbur’s poem “Seed Leaves:”
Here something stubborn comes
Dislodging the earth crumbs
And making crusty rubble
It comes up bending double
And looks like a green staple.
It could be seedling maple,
Or artichoke, or bean
That remains to be seen.
I wander around the farm as dusk settles in on this silent spring night, and I pause knowing this is the calm before the storm. This spring marks the beginning of my fourth season of growing at Gaining Ground. Which means I have walked all around and over this piece of land. Back and forth from the orchards to the greenhouse, up and down every row and through each field. I am blessed by the opportunity to walk the fields determined, yet again, to plough, sow and reap its soil, seed, and bounty.
We are a five-person farm crew again this season, with Doug and Kayleigh co-managing the farm, Coleman Wadsworth and Alexis Mantis as our two seasonal apprentices, and Paula Jordan as Head Start mobile market manager.
For farms, winter means more time to plan, and this year’s focus has been to streamline our volunteer sign-up process. We want our volunteers to spend less time in their planning and more enjoyable time in the planting and harvesting.
The Board and Staff would like to express our sincere gratitude to all those supporters who have given generously and shared their time and talents with Gaining Ground through the winter and early spring in 2016.
Please contact us if you would like to help with these or other donations!
- Vermont garden cart
- Supply of wax boxes and banana boxes
- DeWalt cordless drill
- Stihl chainsaw
- Stanley FatMax tape measure
- Klein 4-piece screwdriver set
- Felco hand pruners
- Small baskets
Everyone has a food story. It just seems to take a little talking to learn it. Working with Gaining Ground volunteers over the years, I have heard many stories that I collected like slips of paper. It was just this year that I realized how these food stories come from all types of people. There was the woman who remembered the house made of pole beans her dad built her when she was small. There was mint that a third grade boy recognized because he and his dad stop to visit a patch every time they walk their dog. There are nostalgic descriptions of grandmothers’ gardens and the gardens of mothers and fathers vivid with vegetables even though some were planted fifty years ago. And, of course, there are the gardens growing at homes this season, with their woodchuck stories and their memorable one-strawberry harvests. There are always tales of the delicious meals made, too. Telling stories provides an easy way for everyone working to join in the conversation of favorite ways to use, eat, and preserve.
In the spring, we asked our community to help us raise funds to build a barn. New and long-time donors, foundations, and our Board have responded, and a barn is coming.
A dedicated group of our Staff, Board, and consultants, led by Board member Jeff Young, has been working on design and siting all summer. The barn won’t be the proverbial camel, a horse designed by committee, and has taken shape as a highly functional building to serve the various needs of our farm, farmers, and volunteers. We maintained our commitment to making the barn advance all aspects of our mission, enabling volunteers of all abilities to help us grow as much produce as possible for our recipients.
Due to the pending construction of the barn, we celebrated our 22nd growing season a week earlier this year on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in mid-September. With tomatoes still in the hoop house and a large field of fall crops near the pavilion, musicians Ryan Thomson and his son Brennish entertained a welcome group of Gaining Ground friends. We are so appreciative of everyone who made this event possible!
With so many volunteers, Gaining Ground has needed an additional picnic table and benches. This spring, high school student Santiago Benoit of Concord’s Troop 132 took on the challenge as his Eagle Scout project. In August, he and a team of Scouts spent the day putting together the many components just in time for September’s Harvest Fest. Numerous volunteers have appreciated the additional resting space.