The Florence Community Gardens in Northampton, Massachusetts Readied for Spring Groundbreaking (with video)
NORTHAMPTON – The much anticipated community gardens in Florence is already rocking to the tune of 80,000 pounds of finely ground rock dust in preparation for groundbreaking by 100 “pioneer” farmers next spring.
On Tuesday, workers spread the rock dust over 12 acres of soil on the already rich farmland by the Mill River. The application, touted as one of the first of its kind for such a project, is expected to provide a variety of benefits to the gardeners who will till the soil.
“It causes a phenomenal growth of the microorganisms in the soil and increases the nutrient intake of plants,” said Joanna Campe, the executive director of the Northampton-based Remineralize the Earth.
In addition, Campe explained in a prepared statement, the rock dust counters the effects of soil acidity, prevents erosion, increases the storage capacity of soil and has anti-fungal properties. It also repels insects, eliminating the need for pesticides.
Remineralize the Earth is working on the project with Grow Food Northampton, which is overseeing the development of the community gardens. Grow Food director Lilly Lombard said the application of the rock dust was timed in anticipation of Wednesday’s soaking rain.
“It instantly washed into the soil, so it was perfect,” she said.
The rock dust came from a quarry in Westfield and cost about $3,000. Organic Connections Magazine published by Natural Vitality was so excited about the project that it donated $1,000 towards the cause, Lombard said.
Grow Food Northampton raised $670,000 to buy 120 acres of the Allard-Bean property near the Mill River in Florence, part of a larger land purchase that included the non-profit Trust for Public Land and the city of Northampton. Some of the rich agricultural land has been leased to local farmers and some set aside for a complex of playing fields. The city also awarded Grow Food Northampton $104,500 in Community Preservation Act funds to develop a 400-plot community garden.
Although the land has been touted for its prime topsoil, Lombard said some of it might have been washed away during Tropical Storm Irene, when the Mill River almost completely flooded the land. The rock dust is a good way of restoring the soil, she said.
“We want to create the best and most fertile soil,” Lombard said.
Grow Food Northampton also plans to create a 100-foot-wide buffer zone of trees along the river bank to protect against future flooding. The organization is in the process of developing an irrigation system for the garden plots and hopes to have the first 100 ready for cultivating in the spring.
“We’re looking for 100 pioneer gardeners next spring,” Lombard said. “They have to have the pioneer spirit.”
Details of how the plots will be allotted have not been finalized, but Lombard said demand has been high. Would-be gardeners could end up waiting in line on registration day. Lombard said she wouldn’t be surprised of some camp out overnight to secure a spot.
Article reprinted from The Republican, November 25, 2011
Photos by Shelley Rotner