A Year of Plenty: Looking Back on the 2023 Season

As the farm settles in for its winter rest, we reflect with gratitude on the year’s successes and challenges. The fields are quiet now, blanketed beneath cover crop, mulch, or salt marsh hay. Gone are the spirited laughter and chatter of volunteers. The barn and pavilion are packed tightly with distribution tables, banana boxes, tools, and supplies, safely stored away for the chilly months ahead.

Gaining Ground’s 29th growing season yielded 123,557 pounds of vegetables, fruit, herbs, maple syrup, honey, and cut flowers for our neighbors experiencing food insecurity. Eight skilled farmers, assisted by thousands of volunteers, increased our production by 8.4 percent over 2022. The farm’s 2023 distribution total is equivalent to 511,000 individual servings of nutritious food, donated weekly to more than 2,100 households at the height of the season.

On the volunteer front, more than 3,300 people (including 98 groups) came to the farm between April and November this year. We welcomed volunteers from 99 local towns, increasing geographical diversity by 43 percent compared to 2022. The volunteer pavilion chalkboard displayed a wide range of home countries by the end of the season including Colombia, Ukraine, Australia, El Salvador, and China.

I believe that Gaining Ground’s impact can be most holistically measured in the number of lives we have changed for the better since our founding in 1994. Statistics are compelling, but they only tell part of the story. I am touched each year by the personal sentiments, quotes, and testimonials that reach us via our partner organizations and the thousands of clients they serve. When I consider our success, I think of the families who sit down to a table brimming with fresh, regeneratively grown food that they couldn’t otherwise afford. The single mother who wrote to tell us she’s started serving her children salad first at supper, and how much they’re actually enjoying it. Elders in our Food for Families program who share how meaningful the tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce were on their limited budgets this summer. The schoolchildren who learn how to spread mulch and harvest carrots during a field trip to the farm – and who sometimes return to join our High School Farm Team or staff.

Each year we witness the accelerating effects of climate change. In a year when many of our fellow Massachusetts farmers experienced significant crop loss, we were fortunate to have the third most-productive season in Gaining Ground’s 29 year history. Though our hearts are heavy with concern for the uncertain future of farming and our precious natural environment, we celebrate this season’s abundance and the nourishment it brought weekly to 2,100 households in Boston, Lowell, and the MetroWest. It was particularly meaningful to host most of our partner organizations on the farm in 2023 for full-circle experiences in which clients, volunteers and staff of these organizations could connect with the land and our farmers. Gaining Ground is committed to continuously deepening our relationships with partners and clients and to increasing widespread, equitable access to the farm. We continue to learn from and listen keenly to the people who distribute and consume our food.

It is an honor and a pleasure to give—to share the land’s abundance and the fruits of our labor with our neighbors experiencing food insecurity. We, too, receive and benefit immeasurably from this extraordinary community: from generous donors and grant-makers who fund our work, to thousands of helpful volunteers who join us in the fields, inspiring collaborations with partner organizations, and the steady support of our engaged Board of Directors. In this season of gratitude, as we find and magnify light in the darkest time of the year, we give thanks for all who join Gaining Ground in our mission to grow food and grow community.

Photo credit: Tony Rinaldo Photography