Community Garden Celebrates Second Year With Open House

Over the past year, a piece of land on Graniteville Road on what is known as the Day Parcel has grown into not just a community garden, but a community of gardeners.

Patti Mason and Chip Barrett look at a flower in the garden.

Patti Mason and Chip Barrett look at a flower in the garden.

On Thursday, the Westford Community Garden held an open house, showcasing a literal cornucopia of fruits and vegetables to curious residents. The open house also provided the Westford Agricultural Commission to highlight the garden’s rapid rise in popularity as well.

After initial planning meetings a few months earlier, Town Meeting voters provided the “seed” money for the garden in March of 2015, no pun intended.

As the first growing season approached, garden volunteers scrambled to get everything ready, from removing weeds to building a water supply.

Agricultural Commission educational and outreach chairwoman Christine Berthold remembers those days as a “leap of faith,” fearing all the preparatory work could be for nothing due to disinterest.

Ultimately, the opposite became true. By the end of 2015, residents took up 80 plots in the garden, sharing responsibilities, techniques and equipment while growing friendships and family bonds alongside plants.

Community Garden coordinator Andrea Knowles spent 20 years as a professional landscaper and organic gardener on the North Shore before moving to Westford three years ago. She has a full-time job as a biology teacher at Nashoba Tech, but spends almost as much time as the garden as well helping her fellow gardeners and tending her own plot.

“It’s wonderful, I can pick lettuce anytime and know it’s organic,” said Knowles. “It’s just a tremendous success.”

With the foundation set in place, this spring provided a chance to turn the 80 plots into over 100 as demand slowly built a significant waiting list for room at the garden. This year, the garden’s volunteers accumulated what so far has become over 100 pounds of produce to the Westford Food Pantry through St. Mark’s Church as well.

Shaila Gillett tends to her plot.

Shaila Gillett tends to her plot.

“This garden is just really a special place,” said Berthold. “There are few places in Westford that gather such a cross section of families generationally and culturally.”

The Westford Community Garden currently only occupies a portion of the Day Parcel, but that may change in the near future following news that the property’s other lessee, a hay farmer, recently told the Conservation Commission that he has forfeited his lease.

While definitive details are not yet set, Berthold hopes additional funding can be obtained to expand into that hay farmer’s portion of the land. However, if the community garden’s popularity continues to grow, that expansion might just be the beginning.