A core group of 3-6 members have been meeting bi-monthly at Owl and Raven Community Space in Northampton, on the 2nd and 4th Thurs. of each month from 7 – 8:30p.
We've identified, designed, approached, negotiated and planted at many sites. We'd like to refine this process to make it applicable on a larger scale and in more communities, as volunteers join.
In addition to a core organizing group, a half dozen folks have been involved during larger planting projects. This year, 6 Five College interns logged ~100 hours at Tripple Brook, earning HYS plant credit, as well as doing site prep and plantings. Additionally, 13 8-12th graders from North Star and Four Rivers put in a full week of work on the Rail Trail and beyond, planting and clearing.
2013 - Year in Review:
HYS initiated more than 30 ongoing planting projects in a number of towns in the Valley, primarily Northampton, Greenfield and Hadley, making lasting relationships that will grow over time with:
- More than dozen different public K-12 schools
- Community gardens in 4 towns
- Small businesses and public institutions
- Non profits like Community Action, Just Roots, Grow Food Noho & Gardening the Community
- Town Gov't Dep'ts like recreation, public works, housing authorities, central services, and conservation commissions.
We're involved with design work for some exciting projects for the spring, such as the Hampshire Council of Government's Lawn in Northampton, the Brookie Sculpture Park in Greenfield, the Parent Child Development Center in Amherst.
Projects in the negotiation phase include plantings at the Forbes Library, the Northampton and Holyoke Public Schools, Wentworth Farms Cons. Area in Amherst, the Green River Rec Area in Greenfield, many of Nuestras Raices' community gardens in Holyoke, more small businesses, and community access trees on peoples' home lawns.
Plant volume & handling:
Despite handling a large volume of bare root and fragile stock, we have had very good success. Of all trees planted, only 2 died. Extra seedlings after planting and sales were offered in plant giveaways.
Larger saplings were ordered from Millers Nurseries, Fedco & Tripple Brook. Many plantings consist of 1-3 trees, which could expand to polycultures or forest gardens over time. Bare root orders from Cold Spring Farm & the NH State Forest Nursery shipped more than 1000 <2ft native nut and fruit trees and shrubs. These will b transplantable as larger saplings later. Those remaining will become a food forest near GCC.
- Rail Trail project and HYS in the Gazette (4/13) Brookie park in the Recorder (10/13).
- We gave a presentation promoting public edibles to the Northampton City Council in April.
- HYS Facebook page keeps growing (230 'likes'), blog updated monthly, and web site traffic averages 20 hits a day.
- Over 2,000 perennial, food-bearing plants added to the communities, ecosystems and food systems of the 3 county area: 500+ at or near schools, 120+ along the Rail Trail, 160+ at organizations, parks and comm. gardens, and 660 to area homes and gardens through sales and gifts.
- Dozens of community members and many K-College students had an opportunity to plant perennials at public locations meaningful to them over the year.
- In countless instances while working on plantings along the Rail Trail, passersby were overheard excitedly commenting about the gardens, and observed picking produce.
- Volunteers led 28 free plant walks along the bike path in '12 and 10 more in '13
While great potential for public planting exists everywhere, circumstances led us to our first round of planting projects:
- Northampton: Manhan Rail Trail @ Nagle Walkway, 'Frog Town', O'Donnel House and Cahill Apts (NHA), Chabad Northampton, Vernon St. PCDC, Community Staffing, Cutchins Academy
- Florence: Florence Organic Community Garden
- Greenfield: K-12 (Four Rivers, Newton Elem., Center School, Four Corners School, GHS), Brookie Sculpture Park, Green Riv. Rec Area, Comm. Action Youth Programs, Just Roots
- Holyoke: E.N White and Morgan schools
- Springfield: Gardening the Community (Hancock St. youth garden), Lebanon st. CG
- Hadley: NorthStar Teen Cntr, PV Chinese Immersion Charter, Trans' World Food Market
- Amherst: UMass, Amethyst Brook Cons. Area, Fort River Elem., Hampshire College
- Cummington: Berkshire Trail Elementary School
- Barre: Barre Regional HS
- Montague: Brooks Bend Farm
- Williamsburg: Helen James school
A different organizing group has started to form in Greenfield, being the first offshoot of HYS, broadening the focus of organizers from Northampton to the larger Valley. How can community scale and focused chapters collaborate and communicate? What are the benefits of larger, regional cooperation? Let's find out!
HYS received two Ritual Arts Collective community grants, a number of donations of resources and money, had a successful plant sale, and organized a crowd sourcing campaign. Having spent 7000$ on plants and 400$ on supplies, we stand with 2,300$ and plans for a winter fundraiser.
Burden of Maintenance:
The burden of maintenance will grow for HYS with each new project, and as existing plantings grow. Though forest garden design aims to create self-maintaining systems, the ability of this organization to demonstrate quality and competently maintained gardens in the future will be limited by the size of volunteer pool, +/or the ability to offer a stipend for a youth maintenance corps. This is critical, as garden presentation affects the decisions of other institutions in regards to planting on their property. Additionally, maintenance effects harvest yield, and will either inspire or disappoint the communities that interact with the plantings.
A wider pool of members would help sustain HYS financially and logistically, spread out maintenance labor and increase capacity for further organization and plantings. This bottleneck has limited the capacity and scope of plantings, in the context of outreach, finding planting locations, and especially, design. If you are reading this... are you willing to get involved?
Navigating the concerns and complex politics and ownership claims of the commons has been getting easier. Can we codify this process?
- Increase membership to 20 volunteers w/ yr long commitment of maintenance. Find volunteers willing to engage the community with the landscapes through education and plant walks.
- Connect plantings at public schools to volunteers in the community who, using the plantings, can help promote permaculture to K-12 students and their community.
- Offer volunteer trainings for weeding, season-long care, pruning, grafting, and home-scale propagation of polyculture plants.
- Form local 'Hidden Harvest' chapters to collect and distribute fallen fruit, mitigating concerns of refuse and maximizing harvest potential.
- Begin mapping plantings, existing trees and wild food patches to identify and publicize both the project and sources of sustenance.
- Increase awareness of plantings through signage, walks, murals and promote wild food literacy!
- Keep growing!