To the Editor;
Anybody want to build a community garden with a great fence, sunshine, plenty of water and amenities that delight the soul? With structures that extend the growing season like a cold frame and a great south facing stone wall. With soil reclamation in an ample composting area? With water features, wildflowers for pollinators, a great sundial that shows the seasons? Pathways and seating by a frog pond? Who wants to build an organic compound of fertility with allotments available for rent, like moorings?
Fun food fact- in 1885, according to the Statistics of the Industry of Massachusetts, Marion had a robust farm economy with 30 acres of rye, 36 acres of potatoes, 2800 apple trees, cash crops of onions, turnips and carrots and more. In the century before the 1700’s, people had to grow food for their own survival. A century later, by the late 20th century, people mostly shopped at supermarkets where fresh foods were flown, floated and trucked from California, Mexico, and South America and beyond. Food availability has changed as economics have changed. Raising food is not easy. People with pocket money choose to buy rather than grow.
Improvements in transportation made food grown thousands of miles away cheap and easy to enjoy. The trend to expand the distance between grower and eater continued until the Great Depression when supply chain issues left crops in rail cars to rot while people starved.
In the dark days of a broken economy and world war, our town turned to Victory Gardens. In the mid 1940’s, the clip clop clip clop of the plow horse traveling along Converse Road would draw children to gather and watch with glee as the horse and driver plowed and then harrowed one yard after another. Those Victory Gardens raised a bounty of food and fed the hungry while WWII raged on. They were watered with town water, which was pure, plentiful, and cheap. Water is essential for growing crops, and the technology of delivery has changed over time. The century before Victory Gardens, crops were watered by well, water tank and windmill, as seen in old photos. Today, water is full of growth inhibitors and a little expensive for most people to use on a garden.
‘Grow local’, ‘Know Farmers, Know Food. No farmers, no food’, CSA’s, and the fifty mile diet have many of us thinking about where our food comes from. Even with many people willing to pay a premium for local food, the economics of raising food are harsh. It is not easy to raise vegetables, as many town residents can attest. Efforts were redoubled during the great pandemic, and many people were surprised to learn they could not do it- or did it, but the water bill would keep them from doing it again. Seriously, how many of us could save a seed and produce a vegetable? Hopefully, we will never need to know, but maybe it is a skill set worth fostering.
A real garden, with all the bells and whistles feeds the mind, body and the soul and sings to the heart. Work becomes joy. What if we had a community garden that fostered the love of organic gardening? Building the space will require a huge effort, I know that. Is this something we want to work on? My sense is that if we get a great plan, anything is possible. If you are interested, please email me at email@example.com and we will see how far we can get.
Barbie Burr, Marion
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