In December 1998, Prudence Conservancy agreed to purchase the farm and the second community activity offered was a community garden. The first activity was the annual First Day Walk celebration (January 1999) and the third annual activity was the ice cream social (August 1999).
The garden has come a long way since we drew up the initial plans for the garden space and submitted grant applications to cover the material costs. In March 2000, the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF) awarded us funds to set up the garden. A group of island volunteers (Judi Foster, Therese Marzullo, Pat Owen, Rob Porter) led by Dick Owen and assisted by Billy Silvia, laid out and fenced the garden area and built a compost center. Twenty islanders worked the initial 25 plots and planted vegetables and giant pumpkins. Rob Porter provided two steers to keep gardeners company. Eliza Bearse designed and supervised two garden plots for the children of the Island. Anna Levesque established herself as a productive gardener and a dedicated "Garden Boss". The garden committee sponsored three workshops focusing on pest management, composting and seed saving.
The 2001 season was a busy time. Interest in the garden grew and the garden expanded to twenty-eight plots. The Garden Lady and Garden Mole materialized as permanent fixtures. We began a monthly newsletter to keep everyone abreast of garden activities and provide garden tips and humor. Another grant from the NEGEF funded the purchase of a garden shed, lawn mower, weed whacker, hoses and garden tools. Later that summer, Donald Antaya donated the materials for a watering system. Ziggy Bachini, Earl Levesque and Carl Logiudice assisted Donald in installing the system.
J Westwell offered a series of workshops for the community covering topics from coping with drought to sex and fertility in the garden. His individual instruction to gardeners continues to be a major educational component of the garden experience. Rob Porter built and placed several birdhouses on the garden fence to attract bluebirds back to the farm.
A group of gardeners (Becky and Rick Cornell, Judi Foster, Anna Levesque, Ann Marie Lockwood, Therese Marzullo, Peach Warren) with Billy Silvia's help, began a tradition of entering a garden float in the July fourth parade.
The climax of the 2001 growing season was a Harvest Festival organized by Jane McGuire, Evie Malm, Becky Cornell and Cynthia Buffum. Gardeners shared their produce, cooking and artistry skills with the Island community. Rick and Becky Cornell entertained the children with garden-related games. Everyone came away a winner!
By the 2002 season, rabbits began multiplying in one of the garden plots although they did not seem to be interested in eating anything. Gardeners had to cope with drought conditions but thanks to mulching tips from J Westwell, our vegetables survived. Joe Bains continued to grow the greatest variety and amount of garden radishes. Everyone who copied J Westwell's cucumber fence failed.
Chef Rick Buckley joined the newsletter staff and began supplying us with fantastic recipes timed for specific crop harvesting.
This season (2003) was a year of rain, rot and weeds. Gardeners battled to contain the weeds and give their vegetables a chance. Despite the elements, cucumber and peppers did extraordinarily well while tomatoes went bad. Voles took up occupancy in a number of plots and contributed to some loss of vegetables.
Next season (2004) sixty adults and children will work twenty-eight garden plots. One of the major challenges will be controlling the voles that have entrenched themselves in tunnels throughout the garden area. The Garden Mole is uncomfortable with this situation as one might expect.
The garden has become a focal point of island activity. During the growing season, Islanders visit the garden to view the vegetables and discuss gardening issues. It has become a fixture on Island tours. Gardeners look forward to discussing their experiences and sharing their gardening secrets. Garden volunteers distribute excess produce to Islanders who are unable to grow their own. Older Islanders often sit by garden plots directing gardeners in the art of planting and just enjoying the experience that the garden setting offers.