Michelle Moore, left, an organizer of the Joppa Hill Farm Community Garden, and farm secretary Jo Hendry move a chicken tractor onto grass. There are two chicken tractors in the community garden that are moved around so the chickens can help till and fertilize the field and eat bugs. The tractor shown houses chickens that were fostered over the summer by Bedford school Assistant Superintendent Chip McGee. (Susan Clark Photo)
New community garden in Beford involves locals in agricultural endeavor
“This land here is such a viable resource for the town. It’s a treasure,” Moore said. “I’d like to see this land as a natural resource and used as an agricultural resource to sustain ourselves.”
Eleven gardens have been reserved for growing vegetables and herbs on 10-by-20-foot plots at the community garden at The Educational Farm at Joppa Hill. The fee for each plot is an annual donation of $40. The money generated from the garden will provide seed and plowing, and help create a Community Supported Agriculture garden next year, Moore said.
“Some are here every day, diligently weeding and taking care of the garden,” said Moore. “They’re genuinely interested in what’s being grown and to use the land for what it’s here for.”
She said gardeners Melissa Crews and Janet Folsum share a plot and planted their crops in mounds and dividers to promote growth. Many gardeners add personal touches with vegetable identification signs, flowers, and bird and butterfly ornaments.
Gardeners are asked to maintain their plots on a regular basis by weeding, watering their plants and harvesting.
Every aspect of the garden has a purpose. There are even chickens housed in movable coops, called chicken tractors, that are placed on grassy areas. One of the coops was donated by Girl Scouts.
“The chickens are doing their job by fertilizing, tilling and killing bugs – automatic pest control,” Moore said. “This is an organic garden, no pesticides or synthetics are used.”
Chip McGee, assistant superintendent of Bedford schools, also helped out by fostering hens over the winter and delivered them to the farm in the spring.
The project began by assessing the land, tilling, dividing the plots and building a test garden with 14 varieties of plants, Moore said.
But, it was all made possible with help from local businesses and residents.
The land was tilled by Dave Heisler, with a team of horses and a crew. He turned the soil once, then came back with an Amish mulcher to aerate and smooth the field.
“They took one pass after another. It took four horses and two days to work the land,” Moore said.
Harvest Market, Hannaford supermarkets and Daniel Webster Animal Hospital donated large brown cardboard boxes that are flattened and used to cover the chicken tractors for added shelter, and for lining pathways in the garden. Harvest Market also provided corn husks to keep the chickens cool.
“Lowe’s, as a corporate sponsor, is coming out July 13 to build an entrance arbor into the garden, and coming back to install fencing on the other side,” Moore said, adding the company also donated crushed stone for the pathways and the sitting area.
Road crews working on the Joppa Hill Road restoration dropped off large rocks that will be used for a rock wall and a sitting area.
“We need some shade to get away from the sun,” Moore said. “There will be a designated sitting area in the garden and someone is donating a pop-up tent.”
Weaver Construction also saw a way to help out.
“They shredded trees down the road and brought us wood chips and we used them on top of the cardboard for the paths,” Moore said.
On Friday, June 28, 14 employees from Loureiro Engineering Associates in Manchester will help build more plots, Moore said.
“Also, Sherry Chakrin of Thread Fed designed visors and baseball hats with a logo for the community garden,” Moore said. “It’s a real community effort.”
Word of mouth has spread, but there are still 29 more plots available to gardeners. To reserve a plot, visit www.theeducationalfarm.org and click on the “Garden” button.
Donations of large brown cardboard boxes, sprinklers, garden hoses, watering cans and wooden garden stakes are also accepted.