COVID-19: Deliberations over Coronavirus and Community Garden to Continue on March 24

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The town’s 1.7 acres of community garden — a place of serenity and nurturance — has not escaped the fears brought by COVID-19 to countries worldwide.

Early spring plantings at the Westford Community Garden. PHOTO BY RAY MASCOLA

 

With COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the globe, Select Board member Mark Kost wondered if the virus could live in the soil where community gardeners plant their lettuce, summer squash, peapods, and tomatoes among other foods.

“…Through water or anything that could go through the soil, is there any risk of contamination?” he asked.

The discussion took place on March 17 at a joint meeting of Select Board members and the Board of Health. In keeping with federal requirements of no more than 10 people in the same space at once, the two boards met virtually using webinar software.

“…There’s been a conversation about the community garden and whether or not to open the garden this spring,” said Select Board Chairman Elizabeth Almeida. “But there is some shared use of water spigots, so if it’s ok with the board I would like to take a week and let the folks who are organizing the garden take a week and let us know how they’re running the garden this year.”

Almeida said the extra time would allow the Board of Selectmen and Board of Health to make sure it would be safe to run the garden, located on Graniteville Road, this season.

“There’s nothing to say that this virus lives in the soils. Hopefully in the garden they’re using their own equipment…so if they’re all spread out not coughing or…getting anywhere near another farmer, the chance of transmission outside…is pretty low,” said Board of Health member Joanne Belanger, a nurse who is Andover’s Assistant Director of Public Health.

Town Manager Jodi Ross said the Highway Department staffers would help resurrect the chain link fence, if it’s safe for them to be involved.

Almeida said there is another element that affects the community having to do with food security.

“I know the garden is relatively small in the scheme of things for our community, but for 150 families it is a source of food,” said Almeida. “I keep that in consideration as we make this decision.”

Belanger encouraged keeping the spring ritual to maintain a sense of normalcy.

“This is a crazy time and if this is something tht people are used to doing in the springtime…we can take a week and come up with some good guidelines.,” said Belanger. “For all that we’re taking away this is something that we could allow to happen.”

The select board will take up the matter again on Tuesday, March 24, 7 p.m. at Town Hall.