Hi! My name is Ryan Devlin, and I was one of the apprentices at Gaining Ground for the 2015 growing season. I am from Framingham and have been working on small organic farms for the past seven years. Despite my previous experience, Gaining Ground was the first full-sized farm where I worked for the entire growing season, and it was a wonderful place to do so!
Another record-breaking harvest gave our farmers a problem that was a pleasure to solve: we had to find another group to receive the bounty from our fields. Rosie’s Place in Boston proved to be ideal. It meets our criteria for distribution—it is located within 20 miles of our farm, has a “choice” pantry and refrigeration, and offers nutritional education. Rosie’s also provides healthy lunches and dinners in their welcoming dining room to 220 poor and homeless women and their children each day.
“I wouldn’t really call them mice. Definitely rats. House-cat-sized. This is one of the many trapdoors where they enter.”
Enough! Gaining Ground Farm Managers Kayleigh Boyle and Doug Wolcik vividly brought to life our rodent-ravaged greenhouse in a video to NetScout employees during the final selection stage of their Heart of Giving Community Program. Westford-based NetScout partnered with The Greater Lowell Community Foundation to invite project proposals from regional nonprofits. A committee of NetScout employees reviewed 16 proposals and winnowed them down to three finalists. Each finalist gave a 10-minute pitch and, through a company-wide vote, the employees chose Gaining Ground’s proposal to upgrade our greenhouse.
I have been volunteering at GG for many years with friends and family. This past semester, I attended The High Mountain Institute in Leadville, Colorado, where I learned a lot about sustainability and ways in which one can live a greener life. I hope to bring positive energy to the Board, as well as new ideas on how to integrate the community in Gaining Ground projects. My focus is to involve people my age, and younger, so that the vitality of Gaining Ground will continue as the years go on.
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 throughout the 2015 season.
Don’t let anyone tell you that farmers have the winter off. Last year, we were installing our new irrigation system until the 21st of December. And for the first time, we were able to harvest greens in our new hoop house and distribute storage crops into December.
Some of my favorite days as a farmer come after the new year when we receive the new seed catalogues in the mail. Tucked away by the fireplace watching the snow pile up, we pore over the catalogues while reminiscing about the triumphs and trials of the last season, and dreaming about new varieties to plant this upcoming year.
We are delighted to have the seasoned team of Kayleigh Boyle and Doug Wolcik as our 2015 Farm coordinators. Kayleigh returns with six years of experience developing our farm programs, scheduling our volunteers, and planning our land improvements. Doug brings back two years with Gaining Ground; seven years farming in Massachusetts, California, and South America; and a degree in sustainable agriculture and community food systems from UMass Stockbridge Agriculture School.
At the end of March at The Fenn School, Gaining Ground hosted a multi-generational panel focused on the issue of hunger relief. In a community like ours, hunger might not be obvious, but here are the numbers.
As a long-time Board member and enthusiastic supporter of the Food for families program, I spend many Saturday mornings harvesting and distributing produce and flowers to Concord and Carlisle residents. Through the years, I have received so much joy from this community of recipients. Food naturally generates conversations and memories and has opened the door to my friendship with Concord resident Ingeborg Traulsen.
Even the old Greeks knew, “It will not always be summer; build barns.” (Hesiod)
Over the years, volunteers, generous supporters, Board members, and staff have provided time and capital to help us “dig deeper” at the Virginia Road farm. Our goals have been to make our land more productive and to take good care of our centuries-old fields. Digging deeper has meant investing in a tractor, a new truck, a high tunnel greenhouse, a deer fence, soil fertility, and a well. Our 2014 harvest of 57,000 pounds of organic produce, twice the 2012 harvest, was a clear sign that our plan is working. And more volunteers than ever — 2,200 —worked alongside our farmers.
In the summer of 2013, we began digging deeper—645 feet to be exact. There, below the bedrock, we found a main source of water to supply our crops with a sufficient amount
of irrigation for each growing season.
Gaining Ground has recently received recognition for our work by three organizations. We are honored and inspired!
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.
Because of this year’s extreme cold combined with 110 inches of record-breaking snow, maple sugaring was late to start and slow-going. For the first time, our open house was cancelled entirely. Spring finally broke through in mid-March with sap flowing irregularly. Kayleigh and Doug collected from 200 buckets in Concord, but the extreme conditions prevented tapping in Carlisle. Miraculously, by April the team had boiled 1,100 gallons of sap into 31 gallons of syrup (textbook 40:1 ratio) while simultaneously planting seeds in the greenhouse.
We grow about 150 different species of plants at Gaining Ground—vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs. Most of our seeds come from Maine and start arriving at the office in January and February. Always organic, and whenever possible we choose non-GMO (genetically modified organism) seed sources. A special partnership with elementary school readers in Concord and Belmont helps plant these high-quality seeds into our fields.