Editorial: Many a Garden Grows

Editorial from The Recorder

Anyone familiar with Mother Goose knows the rhyme:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

Mary’s answer was: With silver bells and cockleshells

And pretty maids all in a row.

Had ol’ Mother Goose put the question to Franklin County, however, the response would have been different and much more complex. Just about every imaginable size or configuration, flower to vegetable and everything in between, are a big part of life here.

Farms are a variation of a garden — on a much larger scale and they are part of the economic fabric of the area. A quick Internet search of farms associated with CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) will yield a cornucopia of enterprises. For example, there’s Northfield’s North Star Farms with its range of products that include sod for fields and hops for brewers, or Atlas Farm in South Deerfield supplying organic fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers to other places in the region, to name just two of the many places cultivating vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers, shrubs and trees for the wholesale and retail markets.

Our region with its community gardens, too, offer a chance for people who don’t have land or enough to plant a garden. Greenfield has two sites, the Pleasant Street Community Garden, using a piece of land that was part of the former Davis Street School property, and the Just Roots Farm, with its plots for community gardeners. They offer something special to people. It is, as Ezra Taft Benson, a secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, said, “There are blessings in being close to the soil, in raising your own food even if it is only a garden in your yard and a fruit tree or two. Those families will be fortunate who, in the last days, have an adequate supply of food because of their foresight and ability to produce their own.”

“Being close to the soil” has other benefits — physical, psychological, spiritual. The recognition of the benefits and value of gardens are found in many unexpected places. Through a connection with Greenfield Community College, an 800-square-foot garden at the Franklin County House of Correction was created with the intention of providing food to pre-release inmates.

And then there are raised-bed vegetable plots in front of the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition’s headquarters in Greenfield. They’re part of the Franklin County Women’s GARDEN Project aimed at helping women in abusive relationships and difficult economic circumstances. “There’s a healing aspect to working with the soil and of being self-reliant,” said Abrah Dresdale, program coordinator for Greenfield Community College’s Food and Farm Systems, which is also involved. Participants, too, find their effort grows friendships and community.

From the digging in the dirt to the nurturing of seeds, saplings and small plants to the fulfillment that comes from seeing the end result, we should all get a chance to take part in what the English poet Alfred Austin described as “the glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”