Greenfield gives $25,000 to farm
Just Roots is a nonprofit farm on town-owned land, dedicated to community education and feeding the hungry
By ANITA FRITZ
GREENFIELD — The nonprofit organization that plans to raise food for local residents and Greenfield schools on town-owned land once known as the “poor farm” is moving ahead with those plans, as well as garden tours, workshops, community gardens, and a demonstration garden, all with some help from the town.
Town Council voted Wednesday night to give the group $25,000 so it can buy nutrients for the land, start to revitalize the barn there, and buy some irrigation equipment.
Jay Lord, director of the Just Roots board [Correction: founding director of Just Roots], said it is the second $25,000 the town has given the nonprofit. The first was voted last fall, after the mayor said he’d like the town to help financially, when it can, because the farm will be benefiting the community.
Lord said Just Roots used the first $25,000 to buy fertilizer and minerals, a tractor and cover crop seeds.
“We are improving the value of this town-owned land,” said Lord. “We won’t be spending the town’s money on programming or staff.”
Lord said Just Roots has also received $85,000 in founding gifts and $150,000 in grants, which the organization will use for staff and programming costs.
He said Just Roots has been revitalizing the fields on the 31 acres by putting substantial nutrients on them and planting cover, including Sudan grass, clover and buckwheat.
Volunteers spent last fall removing about 70 tons of rocks from the property and preparing it for planting this past spring.
“We’ve already run some workshops there and used our demonstration garden,” said Lord. “We’ve been giving the Center for Self-Reliance and Stone Soup Cafe at the Unitarian Universalist All Souls Church produce each week.”
He said the garden has produced zucchini, cucumbers, basil, tomatoes and parsley.
Lord said besides Just Roots volunteers, some residents from the Kimball House at the Franklin County House of Correction, and volunteers from the Pioneer Valley Summer of Solutions youth-led community development program in Greenfield and Turners Falls have all spent time working in the gardens this year. He said 20 community gardens are being cared for by individuals at this point. He said there will be 40 spots available within five years.
The land Just Roots is farming was placed in the state Agricultural Preservation Restriction program last year.
Martin said at the time of the APR that he was happy Just Roots would be using the land to feed others.
Lord said Just Roots plans to create a strong market and educational farm for the community over the next 5 to 10 years.
Just Roots, which was formed about three years ago in partnership with Pleasant Street Gardens, Greening Greenfield Energy Committee and Mount Grace Conservation Land Trust for the purpose of identifying and protecting agricultural land in Greenfield, to secure local food production by and for the community, signed a 15-year lease with the town last summer and has been cleaning up the land since.
The state paid the town $198,000 in June 2011 to put 31.057 acres of the 62-acre property in APR; Just Roots will pay the town $1,000 a year to farm the land.
The farm was privately owned in the early 1800s. In 1849, Justin Root, who was a Greenfield selectman, sold the land to the town for $3,525 and it became the town’s poor farm, a place where Greenfield provided work, food and shelter to those who had fallen on hard times.
The poor farm continued for more than 100 years with support of the town, but health regulations and zoning forced it to close in the mid-1950s.
Bree-Z-Knoll Farm plants corn on about 20 of the 62 acres there and has for many years. There are two barns on the property. Just Roots will be responsible, as part of its lease agreement, for maintaining the larger barn, and the DPW will continue to use the other barn. Seven acres of the 62-acre town farm will continue to be used by Camp Keewanee for parking for its events, including the twice-a-year Wormtown concert weekend. Ten acres will continue to be used by the town’s Department of Public Works.
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