Just a few cold months ago, Westford Agricultural Committee’s Community Garden was an idea waiting to begin on Graniteville Road. Now with warmer weather, what was once just an idea has become a burgeoning and blossoming reality.
Since the approval of funds for most of the project at Town Meeting in March, , members of the Agricultural Commission estimated 1000 hours of work has been invested in preparation and maintenance.
Christine Berthold, chairperson the Agricultural Commission’s Education and Community Awareness Subcomittee, is thrilled about how far the garden has come.
She now believes many see the garden as a “second neighborhood,” each using their own little piece of the garden for different purposes, each with their own methods.
“It’s really satisfying, I think I can speak for all of us,” said Berthold. “I see the people around me as my neighbors and it feels like that.”
With the season now in full spring, a handful of gardeners are generally seen at any time of the day, with over two dozen on average during busy periods.
Before the first few gardeners started coming in May though, the board addressed water needs, mapped out and tilled the land, and discovered interested residents looking to cultivate their green thumb like Jennifer Cataldo.
Cataldo once had a garden at her house, but the growth of trees nearby created too much shade to make gardening feasible for the most part.
At the community garden, she is now growing a variety of crops ranging from Swiss chard and kale to carrots and peas, a crop she says is providing significant savings over grocery store prices.
While some might find it intimidating to grow so much at once, Cataldo has been pleased with the training she’s received from the Agricultural Commission, which has included classes, social media updates and other tips.
Cataldo is just one of over eighty farmers now cultivating an acre on the Day Parcel, just south of St. Mark’s Church.
According to Berthold, the fast pace of this project was due in large part to town employees, who were able to quickly assist with infrastructure concerns.
In particular, members of the Water Department came to the rescue on Memorial Day, providing a temporary water source for gardeners looking to begin their work while still waiting for a more permanent water source to be put into place several weeks later.
“May was a brutally dry month to get a garden started on a plot that had not been gardened in a long time,” said Berthold. “The town jury rigged a solution for us with a firehose to get going, because it was Memorial Day weekend and people wanted to get going.”
Indeed, in the eyes of the Agricultural Commission, everything has fallen into place for the Community Garden this year, and now the focus heads toward the future.
While the main goal is to maintain the atmosphere of happiness and community, potential short term projects such as port-a-potties and a kids’ play structure are looming.
There’s also the possibility that negotiations could begin to expand the garden into the rest of the Day Parcel in several years after a current lease with a hay farmer lapses. Or potentially another community garden could begin for residents in other parts of town if land becomes available.
There is a possibility that additions may be kept to a minimum in order to keep lot prices as low as possible for farmers. However, a possible increase in demand may also play a role in what comes next as well as accessibility for residents.
Opinions on that point still vary, but in Cataldo’s view the key to the garden is its simplicity.
“We don’t want it to get too junky or too overdone, it’s here for the gardening purposes.” she stated. “It’s beautiful just the way it is.”
However, if word does get out, she hopes there’s enough room for everyone.
“I would hope there’s an expansion, it should be for everybody, not just people who knew about it in the beginning,” she said.
More information on the garden is available on the Agricultural Commission website.
An open house at the garden is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 7 from 3 to 6 p.m.