close
close

Greenfield Recorder – Planting the Seeds of Sustainability: The Greenfield Garden Club encourages horticulturists of all ages

The Greenfield Garden Club isn’t just for Greenfield residents: “We welcome people from Franklin County and beyond,” said club president Laura Schlaikjer. Let’s take a look at two ways the group encourages gardening and hopes to continue for years to come as they prioritize connecting with young people to help ensure a robust agricultural future in our area.

The Greenfield Garden Club maintains an ongoing grant program, and Gill Elementary School is the latest recipient of the group’s generosity. However, anyone can benefit from the group’s generous spirit this very weekend as they host their 28th Garden Tour. The tour is scheduled for this Saturday, June 8, with Sunday scheduled as a rain date (but that’s only in case of torrential conditions, dear readers, not drizzle or sprinkles!). Formerly an annual event, the Garden Tour now takes place every two years, giving visitors access to stunning horticultural displays.

For many home gardeners, preparing for a steady stream of visitors can be the stuff of nightmares, as conditions can suddenly change from presentable to scruffy in a matter of days, depending on rainfall, temperatures and willingness to get out there. and to make. heavy lifting. However, in the interest of sharing beauty and inspiration, several brave souls are working hard to make the Garden Tour a success.

Those who want to immerse themselves in the gorgeousness can embark on the tour, and visitors with limited time can take a hurried approach, checking out each site and jumping back in the car to head to the next destination. But to really soak up the beauty, a slower pace is recommended. Visiting living works of art at a leisurely pace can lead to the absorption of tranquility and wonder as you take in vibrant colors, wonderful shapes, intoxicating fragrances and impressive designs.

Norm Hirschfeld is this year’s tournament coordinator. “All seven gardens are in Greenfield,” he said, “although that’s not always the case. Everyone has been on previous tours, although for some it’s been a long time.” A garden can change dramatically from year to year under the care of an expert or even a dedicated hobbyist.

Tickets for the tour go on sale for $10 Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the John Zon Senior Center; the self-guided tour takes place between 10:00 and 16:00. Ticket holders receive a map and descriptions of each garden. The most geographically effective strategy is to start at No. 1 and work your way up to No. 7, “but people can do that the other way around,” Hirschfeld said. For those who enjoy good taste, note that soft drinks are at number 7.

This year’s tour includes a factory sale open to ticket holders only. A hard-working club leader, Schlaikjer pointed out that in light of concerns about the spread of jumping worms, or Amynthasagrestis, the plants for sale come from two Garden Club members and “are guaranteed to be clean. They were started in greenhouses and handled with great care.”

Schlaikjer and Hirschfeld were tight-lipped about the details of the tour, but did divulge that one location offers a magnificent view of Greenfield, a large maze, perennial borders, a Japanese-style bridge and a pagoda. “Another site has a wonderful garden that attracts pollinators,” said Hirschfeld, who added that one of his favorite aspects of the tour is that “everybody tackles different gardening problems and has different approaches. (Tourism) is a good place to ask questions and a great way to get ideas.”

Hirschfeld’s introduction to gardening came in 1994, “the same year Marsha and I got married,” he said of fellow club member Marsha Stone. “I joined a community garden in Waltham.” Hirschfeld was hooked, even though gardening comes with challenges. “In Waltham, we had a groundhog problem,” he said, “but it was a great group and (members) created fabulous gardens.” Hirschfeld credits the Greenfield Garden Club with inspiring him. “I picked up a lot of ideas,” he said, “especially during the garden tours.”

Proceeds from the tour and plant sale go towards the Club’s grants and other programs, which brings us to the next topic. “We want to encourage the next generation and reach as many kids as possible,” Schlaikjer said. “Gardening activities can fit into a science curriculum and have a broad impact.” Hence the Club’s decision to approve the grant application from Gill Elementary School (GES).

The Farm to School Initiative

GES Director Walter Huston learned about the Farm to School (F2S) Initiative through his involvement with Vermont’s Shelburne Farms, located along the shores of Lake Champlain. Huston calls Shelburne Farms “my happy place. It’s a working farm with a focus on sustainability education that includes F2S programming.” The farm is hosting a three-day conference to help schools implement F2S programs in their districts. “Our Food Service Director, Molly Brooks, registered (some GES staff) to go to a Shelburne Farms conference last June,” said Huston, who learned there is also an F2S program in Massachusetts that, at like the Vermont program, supports schools and districts that want to help students make healthy food choices and connect local farms with schools.

While principal at a school in Marlow, New Hampshire, Huston developed his mission to educate students about the environment, economic sustainability and social justice. His involvement in F2S seems perfect: “It helps students realize where their food comes from and connects them with members of the community. It also educates and addresses food injustice.”

The Greenfield Garden Club grant allowed GES to purchase sign frames for their garden beds, including mixed plant and butterfly beds. “The students do the artwork and we slide the signs into the stands,” Huston said. Schlaikjer noted, “It can be relatively easy to get plants and seeds, but harder to get signage and tools.” There the Club gave a boost to the school.

A key to success is the involvement of Gill farmers, including Faith Rand, a GES training assistant, and Sorrel Hatch, manager of Upinngil Farm. Hatch’s three children attend the school, making them the third generation of family members to do so. Hatch joined the F2S committee “after being a rogue agent,” she said. “I helped in the school garden whenever I had a little time.” While the farmers are busy almost all the time, Hatch’s family lives near the school and her family walks to the GES every weekday on a much-loved nature trail. “We just did things (in the school garden) that needed to be done,” Hatch said, “but now I have actual committee members that I can communicate with.”

Students, teachers and farmers do one project a week, “often a small project,” Hatch said. “I planted potatoes at the end of a school day, just before dismissal.” They started an additional garden club that meets once a week after school. A perennial challenge with school gardens is what happens during the summer holidays. “It’s important to have fun during the summer,” Hatch said, “but school gardens often turn into weedy messes.” The plan is for participating students and their parents/guardians to help Hatch keep things in shape this summer.

The Greenfield Garden Club provides small grants to groups and organizations located in Franklin County, according to Schlaikjer. “Past grants have typically ranged from $50 to $300 and have included libraries, recreation departments, after-school programs, summer school programs and community gardens.” She encourages those with projects involving gardening, plant science, ecology or related topics to apply by visiting the website: Thegreenfieldgardenclub.org

Sorrel Hatch sees many benefits in gardening with school children: “It’s important for children to feel grounded and have a place where they are recognized and safe. It is vital to their mental well-being. We want them to feel that school will always be a safe place to come back to.”

Hatch appreciates that her hometown “is so beautiful, and so is the space around the school. Our nature trail descends to the creek, there is a field of wildflowers and a vernal pool to explore in the spring.” Hatch wants those in the school community to appreciate the beauty of the area and participate by being stewards. “This is my goal: to give them roots. You cannot give to others, you cannot be generous unless you feel safe. It’s a fundamental thing that I instill in my children and I want other children to have that as well.”

Eveline MacDougall is grateful to have grown up in and around her family’s garden and farm and to pass that legacy on to the next generation. She is the author of “Fiery Hope” and an artist, musician and mother. To contact: [email protected].