YMCA farm produces big yield for community pantries
HANOVER – After three years of planning, building and hard work, the YMCA Hanover is on track to donate hundreds of pounds of fresh produce to local pantries.
“This season we have harvested just over 500 pounds of produce and have given most of it to the pantry to give to those in need,” said Dan Berry, General Manager of YMCA de la Rive. -South.
The farm is tucked away behind the Early Learning Center in Hanover at 1075 Washington St. Its birth came three years ago when volunteers, staff, and contractors built raised garden beds, drilled a well, and built a system. irrigation.
“We took a break during COVID and missed the 2020 growing season because of it, but we are starting again from the ground with our raised beds, the educational garden and the production field,” Berry said.
This year, the Hanover Food Pantry received most of the Hanover YMCA’s fresh produce.
Following:Hanover Food Pantry Moves to New and Bigger Digs at Old Sylvester School
The farm is a labor of love for the Berry and the result of various grants. It’s following in the footsteps of other YMCA farms, including one in Sandwich.
The green spaces also provide a space for preschool learning center staff to teach their preschoolers about habitats, life cycle and how plants grow.
“We want to teach people how to grow their own food and how to take care of gardens,” Berry said.
The farm is a way for the organization to give back to the city, to support its mission and to provide enrichment that it could not before.
“It’s purely a mission-oriented piece for us,” he said.
VOLUNTEER:Learn more about volunteering in area YMCAs
Berry said they have a few apple trees on the property, but it will be a few years before they start bearing enough fruit. The farm has planted blueberries, which will also take a few years to ripen.
“We grew peppers and garlic, herbs, lots of cucumbers, lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes, and I think we also grew corn on the site,” he said. .
Berry said fruits and vegetables aren’t the only thing harvested on the farm. He also has two beehives. The manager of the farm, Kate Smith, is a beekeeper, as is another member of the staff.
Supplies for the honey bee colony were purchased through grants, Berry said.
This year, most of the 500 pounds of produce came from the raised beds, located in an asphalt parking lot.
Smith said she hopes the 1-acre farm will produce more food next year.
Berry said the “production field” will likely accommodate high-yielding crops like potatoes, onions, zucchini and squash.
“When we replant the production field next year, I’m sure we’ll have an overwhelming amount to donate, and I don’t know if the Hanover Food Pantry will be able to handle it all,” he said. .
Berry said next year that he expects the field to easily produce over 1,000 pounds of bountiful crops, including tomatoes.
This means the farm will need volunteers.
Smith said it’s a win-win situation for the volunteers, who can do a good job and learn to garden in the process.
“It’s a lot of work, but my biggest hope for the future is to have a solid base of volunteers,” she said.
The farm has already helped engage families, taught people how to garden, and raised awareness about food insecurity.
In addition to drilling a well and building an irrigation system, the YMCA also received a grant to build a barn and donations to operate a power line. This barn will serve as a classroom.
“Our goal is to continue to develop educational programs around this,” Berry said. “I see us having an agricultural specialty camp next summer for the kids.”
Berry photography courses for children, adults and families, as well as possible cooking demonstrations.
Smith said she wanted to teach people how to incorporate unused fruits and vegetables that might otherwise be thrown away, like a half-nibbled tomato or an odd-looking apple. She also wants to teach people how to use products they may not know how to prepare, like winter squash or kale.
ALL ABOUT THE ICING:Learn more about gleaning
Smith said looking after the farm this year has been instructive for what to do next year. For example, she plans to plant larger tomatoes because the smaller ones tend to crush during transport or the skin splits easily.
“I have learned that too much rain is not a good thing,” she said. “This year has been so difficult from a weather point of view. At first it was hot and dry, then we had so much rain.”
Too much rain resulted in root rot and powdery mildew in her squash, she said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Berry at [email protected]
Thank you to our subscribers, who help make this coverage possible. If you’re not a subscriber, consider supporting great local journalism with a Patriot Ledger subscription. Here is our latest offer.
Contact reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at [email protected]