Gardening and Good Food Bring Bostonians Together Across Divides

Volunteer gardeners

Two volunteers set up stones to filter water at the Garden Girl urban farm in Roxbury, Mass.

This was a glorious weekend for gardening in Boston.  Everyone, it seemed, was out to buy plants and share their love of the good earth with their fellow Beantowners.

The pancake assembly line

Brookwood board members cook pancakes for the hungry crowd.

Saturday morning, my friend Kate and I went to the Brookwood Community Farm Pancake Breakfast and Plant Sale.  Brookwood Community Farm, which farms organically on public land in Milton, and Canton, Mass., runs a sold-out, 200-family CSA; offers educational programs; donates fresh produce to food pantries; and works with low-income communities on creative ways to increase access to healthy local food. (For more on Brookwood’s great work, see my previous post about the farm.)

The blueberry pancakes were delicious, the seedlings were in mint (no pun intended) condition, and it looked like they raised a ton of money, because the place was packed.  Unfortunately, I spent too much time schmoozing, because by the time I went over to pick out my plants, all the arugula seedlings were gone.

(BTW, they also ran out of the arugula at the City Natives plant sale last weekend, and they’ve been sold out of arugula seeds everywhere else I’ve looked.  What’s up with the run on arugula?)

"The planting"

Seeds and seedlings in my raised beds

I got home yesterday and spent a couple of happy hours planting my chives, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, Red Rubin and Holy Red and Green basil, marigolds, nasturtiums, and Calliope Eggplant seedlings in my new raised beds.

After a day of a little too much fun in the sun (forgot to put on sunscreen), I’d have been happy to stay indoors today, but I’d already signed up for a gardening work day organized by my friend Dave Madan, founder and executive director of theMOVE, an organization that organizes trips for volunteers to spend a few hours, a day or weekend doing hands-on work at a Massachusetts farm. Most of their trips are educational sessions for school groups, but they also sponsor trips that are open to all.  theMOVE does a great job at attracting a diverse group of volunteers, especially youth.

Raised Bed Heaven!

Just a few of Patty Moreno's raised beds.

I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the legendary urban garden of Patti Moreno, of “Garden Girl TV,” on Fort Hill in Roxbury.  Moreno is a charismatic compulsive gardener who has created an extraordinary oasis in the middle of the city, complete with chickens, a fish pond, multiple raised beds, and lots of edible native plants.  Her website, videos and online magazine are chock full of helpful tips for beginning gardeners.  She’s even more dynamic in person, where she candidly admits she got into gardening to lose weight, but now it’s become a way of life for her.

Hungry volunteers with theMOVE gather for a delicious pasta lunch

With minimal instruction but lots of encouragement and plenty of “management by walking around,” Moreno gave us rakes, hoes, shovels, and other tools and put us to work. Our group of twenty volunteers spent a few hours cleaning out her compost piles, weeding, watering, and planting yew trees and other native seedlings. It’s amazing what a crew can accomplish—by lunchtime, the grounds were cleared, and the plants were planted. We sat down to a delicious, well-deserved meal of pasta, pesto, free-range beef spaghetti sauce, and cooked vegetables.

These two gatherings, along with the great “perennial swap” and plant sale I wrote about last week at Boston Natural Areas Network’s City Natives community garden in Mattapan, Mass., have put a big grin on my face.

Volunteers sort donations at City Natives Nursery in Mattapan, Mass.

As interest in good food, gardening, and urban agriculture continues to grow, I’m beginning to see more Bostonians of different ages and backgrounds gathering to share skills and favorite foods.

While the rainbow chard and the rainbow carrots at the farmers markets still display more diversity than most of  the “good food” gatherings I go to in Boston, over the past two weekends, I’ve seen a little more cross-fertilization. I’m feeling hopeful that gardening and good food can be a bridge to bring Bostonians together across age, race, class, and, of course, the great vegetarian/carnivore divides.

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3 Responses to Gardening and Good Food Bring Bostonians Together Across Divides

  1. Simca says:

    Thanks for bringing attention to those groups that are really trying to bring all kinds of folks into food and agriculture work. This focus on diversity (or lack thereof) is very important. And arugula does wonderfully direct seeded. You don’t need to wait for any seedlings, just find the seeds!

  2. Pingback: Healthy Food and Fitness Are "In" Store for Mattapan | The PescoVegetarian Times

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