Camaraderie in Community Gardens

A look inside the plots at our community garden. Photo taken by Jones Farm.

Each year my parents and I grow edible plants and decorative flowers in Spring and Summer. We have a plot in a community garden down the street from our house, where other people in town also rent plots and grow whatever crops they want. I’ve learned by having this plot over the years that there is a sense of camaraderie and a lot of teamwork in a community garden. I see this in a couple different areas- in the upkeep of the community garden land, and in seeing excess crops being shared between gardeners.

There is always help needed at a community garden. At ours, there is regular weeding and mowing that needs to be done in the grass aisles in between each plot. Sometimes the fences need to be mended, the watering tanks need to be fixed, and gas needs to be put in the lawn mowers and rototillers. The organizer of the garden seeks help with all of these tasks from plot owners. Without it, no one would be able to use the land because it would become messy and unorganized, so community gardeners depend on each other to keep the land workable.

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant at our garden.

I’ve also seen lots of sharing between gardeners, especially in mid to late summer when plants are growing with copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. There’s a picnic table at the entrance to the plots where gardeners often put a basket or bag of excess produce that’s up for grabs. My parents and I have done that quite a few times, especially when our tomato harvest becomes too much for three people to eat and we’ve exhausted everyone we know with bags of them. Whatever is left on that table always gets taken, which is nice to see. You know that the surplus goods did not go to waste. I also see recipes and planting techniques shared between gardeners, which we do often with our plot neighbor, who’s a master farmer.

Our excess harvest of cherry tomatoes last year that we put in a bucket and left at the table at our community garden for anyone to take.

I think the bond between people in a community garden comes from not only needing to rely on others to have the land be functional and organized, but also because gardening itself is an act that’s all about giving. With a good harvest, you’re giving yourself and your family homegrown produce, and you could have excess crops to give to others who don’t have a garden so they can experience farm fresh food too. In a community garden, it’s all about teamwork to make the gardening season successful for all.

The New Opposition

Last Thursday me and a couple other ESS students were huddling and working on our senior projects when we heard the news from our Professor: someone had heckled at a climate Cafe. In our minds this news had a bit more of significance because we were holding a climate cafe ourselves the night of March 14th. As an approach to talking about environmental issues, a climate Cafe can be utilized as simple as a round table discussion or it could be a multifaceted event with multiple speakers. In the case of the disturbed event, it was the latter and included many members of the environmental community and the commonwealth.

Shiva Ayyadurai disrupting a climate Cafe
Credits: Carl Russo/Andover Townsman

It was held in the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, Massachusetts and was attended by hundreds hoping to listen to Anthony Janeto, a professor from Boston University, talk about his research on climate change. Shiva Ayyadurai, an independent candidate, like any other citizen was allowed to participate but soon became very disrespectful to both the audience and Dr. Janeto. He started to call the professor a “liar” and making unfounded claims about how climate change is hoax. This uncivil discussion escalated more and more which led to the police being called and the event was shutdown.

The Memorial Hall Library
A different angle of The Memorial Hall Library

Shiva Ayyadurai is a product of the zeitgeist of Trump Era politics, In a similar manner to Trump he uses  subversive language to attack his opponents. In addition Shiva has made questionable claims about his qualifications claiming to be the “inventor of email”. For those who are unfamiliar his most recent efforts  was an independent bid for senate. Where he used similar tactics of “organic” publicity stunts and attacking the media to gain attention. He represents the new opposition to the environmental community and its ideals

I talk about this particular event because it encapsulates the  polarization of environmental politics today. Which wasn’t mentioned a lot in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal,Vegetable,Miracle and or a lot of the other recent readings we as a class have read. The exception to the rule was the Food Chains where they talk about the nature of the opposition. The movie talks about corporate interests like Publix not coming to table to discuss both the importance of sustainable practices and workers rights.  

Data representing the ideological divide in politics
Credits:Pew Research Center

A segment of our  citizenry have their own skepticism when it comes to environmental policy-making  and this is backed-up by data from the Pew Research center.  According to the data seen below subscribing to a particular ideology has an effect on your perception of  the effectiveness of environmental policies. Comparing these contrasting ideologies the data reflects that  conservatives have little faith in these climate policies and that liberals more often than not support these policies. A healthy sense of skepticism is important for a democracy to flourish. It when the skepticism becomes toxic that is when we have a  real problem on our hands. I hope in the near future that we are able to convince a lot of the climate skeptics that we are willing to include them in the conversation. But it’s more important for us as a citizenry to use that skepticism and constructive criticism to make these climate policies more effective. In the hopes that this sort of situation doesn’t happen again.

-Bram Kools

My first garden

Growing up in a small neighborhood, all my neighbors had gardens except my house. While my parents were busy redoing our house, they finally dedicated a summer to planting and making our yard look prettier. Just like in the book, Farm City, it really took a small community to help plant our garden. My mothers best friends both had huge gardens at their houses and both loved planting, so they were thrilled when my mother decided to start planting in our dull yard. My mother and father had no idea how to start a garden. I remember my dad cleared out a flower bed in the front and back yard and surrounded it with wood. We then went to the local Home Depot to choose the flowers that we wanted to plant in our new gardens. When we got back that’s when everyone started to help plant. Even my neighbors came out to help make the days work go faster. After everyone was done planting my dad had a little corner he took out on the other side of our walk way. By the end of the day we were all out of flowers to plant and I was not able to help because I had sports games to attend. My father knew I was upset that I couldn’t participate in the days activity and he let me plant whatever I wanted in the little corner space that was left. As an 8 year old I had no patience to wait until the next day to pick out flowers so I picked all the dandelions in my backyard and buried then into my little dirt patch. That was my first gardening experience.

the garden shop

Growing at home

I was first experienced to Gardening and producing fresh food was with my Grandmother. She lives in a small town outside of Chicago and my entire life has had a beautiful backyard covered with flowers, fruits and vegetables. I was able to grow up in a place with little fresh produce and see what it takes to grow and cook your own food from an early age. My Grandmother would used all of the fresh food she had grown and incorporate them into our dinners. She would also incorporate eggs and meat from chickens that she raises in the same space and the plants. Learning to handle chickens and their eggs was something my Grandmother taught my brother and I.

Moving from Chicago to New Hampshire has opened me up to the beauty of fresh food. Farms are not something that you tend to see in the city of Chicago. Most food is eaten at restaurants or served in a take out bag. When my family moved to New Hampshire my parents began to cook more fresh meals with some vegetables coming from a small garden that me and my father were able to create in our backyard. This was a great experience that took me and my father about six hours. We decided to grow things such as green beans, rhubarb, tomatoes and cucumbers. These vegetables became apart of our meals, the fresh vegetables were noticeable better than ones bought at a grocery store.

The biggest difference to me is the mass amount of farmers markets that are available in New Hampshire compared to Chicago. Apart from having a small garden farmers markets and small farms  are a one of the main ways my family’s buys fresh fruits and vegetables. A fantastic farm in Meredith New Hampshire called Moulton Farms has made it easily available for my family to purchase produce.

Mom’s Project

Growing up, I lived in an enormous house that my dad built with his own two hands. Both the back and front yard had a tremendous amount of freshly mowed grass to play on and a playground in the back, that was greatly appreciated by my three siblings and I. We lived a life that was strictly based on outdoor activities. No matter what the climate consisted of, we bundled up in the snow and we slapped on sunscreen during the hotter days.

My older sister Maggie and I playing on our playground.

I remember one beautiful spring day my siblings and I were playing whiffle ball in our back yard when my mom came marching down the back deck stairs, a bin overflowing with various gardening instruments nuzzled in her arms. She headed towards a patch of dirt in the corner of the yard and yelled for all of us to come to her. We circled around the patch of dirt and she said, “We are going to get our hands dirty and plant some flowers, whether you all like it or not.” That’s when we got to work.

Every day after school my siblings and I were allowed to watch a half hour of television including a snack, then we were told to report to the backyard to help my mom on the flower garden. I would always wear these pastel pink gardening gloves that ended up molding to my small hands by the time the garden was finished. Most of the time I would play with the worms and dig holes in unnecessary places, my mom was more lenient with my gardening duties, seeing as I was the youngest.

A few months had passed and our job was done, we had cleaned up a dusty old corner in our gigantic backyard and devoted it to this colorful canvas of flora. There were tulips, bleeding hearts, daises etc. exploding with beauty. I think that one of the best moments that came out of that garden was seeing how happy my mom was after accomplishing such a tedious and time consuming task, bringing her children together to create something so undeniably gorgeous.

My sister Maggie and I posing in front of our garden.

Bee’s In The Trap.

Growing up, my parents worked a lot and when I wasn’t in school, they would send me to my grandparent’s house in Weymouth. My Nana and Papa always loved having me come over to hang out with them. We would play board games or look at old pictures of my dad as a child, but on sunny days my Nana would take me out to garden with her in the side- yard. Along the side of their home, she had a beautiful garden filled with many vegetables, fruits, and flowers. It smelled so beautiful and sometimes I would even be able to eat some ripe strawberries or tomatoes with her.

Some of Nana’s beautiful flowers.

One year, on a beautiful Saturday in the Spring, my Nana and I went out to plant some daffodils. What we hadn’t realized was that above the garden under the gutter of the house, their was a bee’s nest and the pesky insects were swarming around that day. My Nana decided to let me water the plants that day too, and I was so excited because she had never trusted me with the hose before. I was holding the hose waiting for the water to come spouting out of the end and then, things went wrong.

My Nana had good reasoning behind not allowing me to water the plants before this day, and after this day, I wasn’t ever allowed to do it again. With the combination of the powerful hose and my noodle arms, I had lost control of it and water was flying everywhere. Normally, this wouldn’t have been such a problem with it happening outside and the weather being so warm. But, while my Nana was laughing at me trying to gain control back, she had not realized the water was spraying straight into the bee’s nest.

The bee’s became infuriated that someone was disturbing their lives and ruining their home, and they wanted revenge. Once my Nana had realized what was happening, she called out my name and told me to run as if my life depended on it, which it really did because I’m allergic to bee’s. The angry insects came flying at my Nana and I and we were running all around the yard to avoid getting stung. All I knew was that I would be okay because my Nana couldn’t run fast, but I could. Safe to say I haven’t gardened with Nana since that day.

I’m so sorry Nana.

No Apples in Apple Valley

Growing up in Franklin, Massachusetts I never drove by acres and acres of cornfields when taking family drives as a kid. The only kind of farm I ever knew was the Big Apple Farm in my neighboring town of Wrentham. Their few hills of apple trees and couple fields of blueberry bushes is the sight I recall when I think of a farm. It is a small farm owned and operated by a local family who’s busiest season is August for blueberry picking, and September into October for apple picking. They sell other locally grown crops like tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, pumpkins, and corn on the cob.

Last summer, I travelled to a family wedding in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Ironically in Apple Valley, most four way intersections were surrounded not by apple orchards, but with massive cornfields. Everywhere I drove, I would look left and right to see nothing but rows of corn stalks. These were “real” farms compared to the few acre apple orchard in my neck of the woods. During my few day stay, the one surprising fact I learned from my cousin about these corn fields was that almost all of the corn grown in those fields is not the variety you find for sale at grocery stores or roadside stands. This corn is used mainly as feed for livestock. Before learning this, I thought all corn was the same. My parents always bought corn on the cob from roadside stands during summer vacations back at home.

So if you are planning a trip to Apple Valley, Minnesota this fall with the hopes of going apple picking, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong neighborhood. However, if you find your way to my neighborhood, the Big Apple Farm is the perfect place for picking six different variety of apples, and a few ears of corn.

Cornfields (left), Reception hall (right)

Tomato Thief

Growing up my family had a nice little garden along the back of our garage. Every year my brother and I got to pick out specific plants that my mom would grow in the garden but my mom had her own favorites that we got every year. She always did tomatoes and they would grow almost as high as the roof of the garage. The time of year when they would each start to turn red was the best because it meant that all the fruits and vegetables would be ready to eat soon. The garden was never fenced in or anything so my brother, my dog and I could roam around our backyard and go into the garden. One year right about the time that the tomatoes started to turn red and everyone was getting their hopes up for the first garden tomato and we had our eyes on the first one to be ready. It was a nice big red tomato that was only a couple days away from being picked. Then the next day it was gone. My family started pointing fingers and accusing someone of eating it or picking it but no one would confess. A couple days go by and more tomatoes start to get red and the original tomato was more or less forgotten about. About the time of the next tomato being ripe it too went missing. Now everyone was perplexed as to what was happening. As soon as the tomatoes would get really close to ripe they were disappearing. Then another plant fell victim to the mysterious fruit thief when mom noticed cucumbers that had massive bites taken out of them. This is when we realized that there were other suspects that had yet to be considered. We then watched my dog through the window of our kitchen one time when we let him out and watched him ever so gently pluck tomatoes off the vine. At the time my Uncle Rob was in town who thought he had a great idea on how to stop the dog from eating tomatoes. He hollowed out a tomato and filled it with hot sauce and cayenne pepper spice. We left the tomato in the garden where my dog had just eaten a tomato. The next time we let him out everyone watched my dog walk up eat the tomato without hesitation. In no way did the dog seem the least bit bothered. Needless to say we got a fence installed.


Chloe looking guilty.

Family Gardens

Credit : 123RF Media

Growing up, both my mother and grandfather kept small seasonal gardens that my two siblings and I would often help with whatever they needed. Growing things like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes every year for a solid 10 we had the routines in the spring and fall to do the little gardens both my mom and grandfather wanted. My mom, who grew up, lived, and worked on a farm selling their produce for all their income and wanted us kids to I guess see how it all works and to an extent have somewhat of an idea on the basics of growing these few vegetables.

Credit: Colourbox

Considering my grandparents have been in the same house for over sixty years, having my father and aunt also live their created the opportunity for new people and families to be met and that is how my family gardens have stood out to me. My grandfathers friends who sons all became my dads friends would have dinner at my grandfathers house every other Sunday and it went on for a few years. This was when i was younger but it was cool to see how the food my grandfather grew in a way brought people together with what was fifteen feet away from the table where we would sit and eat it. Unfortunately now this hasn’t been the case for quite a few years but i can definitely say my siblings and i all took something from this in more than learning how to grow your own food, but also a new way to interact, create relationships, and learn.

Credit : bnpdesigns

Iowa Farms

While many people might not think of ever vacationing in the Mid-West, I have fond memories of spending time in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska for many summers ever since I was born. My mom is from Iowa, and many of her relatives still live there. I look forward to going seeing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins each year. While some people might consider the Mid-West “boring” and have no interest in going, I would recommend it to those who want a change of scenery from urban life and to those who have any interest in seeing farming done on a large scale. No matter where you go, you can’t escape wide fields of crops or animals; the highways are lined with farm land and barns. There’s a large cornfield along my grandparent’s street. I always enjoy seeing the landscape because it’s so different from the Massachusetts scenery that I’m familiar with, and it’s beautiful in its own way in the Summer when everything is at peak growing season. It’s serene to look out on the highway and be able to see farm land for miles because Iowa is fairly flat with rolling hills.

There’s also a soy farm at the end of my grandparent’s street.

During my trips to Iowa, my extended family and I have traveled to many different types of farms. I’ve held baby goats and walked through real corn mazes, ones not merely put up in the Fall for fun. I’ve seen acres of soy farms (Iowa is the largest producer of soy in the country) and Amish people selling their produce at farmers markets. You don’t realize how truly big farming operations can get until you go to a place like Iowa. Farming is a livelihood for many people there, and they have it down to a science.

A couple of years ago we went to a llama farm, where we got to feed and pet around 13 llamas. The older couple who owned the farm sheared them for their wool. While it might seem like llamas are a very unconventional animal to have on a farm, there were no other animals on their land, and they had been raising these llamas for years. They’re very docile, and they were really cute and soft! If you ever have the chance to visit any part of the Mid-West, even for a short time, take it. It’ll give you a window into a way of life that’s unfamiliar to those of us on the East Coast, and you’ll appreciate the time, space, and craft that it takes to farm for a living.

The llama farm.