- Friends of the Community Growing Center
Thank you to our volunteers!
The season is now slowly winding down for the Growing Center, which gives us a much-needed moment to pause and reflect on what a remarkable year it has been––in so many ways. All of us at the Growing Center want to thank you––our volunteers––for the time and energy you have contributed this year to the garden, to our community, and to the Growing Center’s mission to improve local access to the outdoors, education, arts and culture, and urban agriculture. This year has brought so many unpredictable challenges, and we consider it incredibly meaningful to have had so much help from our volunteers and friends at a time of uncertainty and change. (To express some of our gratitude, we’ll be raffling off some fun items to this year’s volunteers, which you can read more about below.)
Despite the difficulties this year has presented––with all of our public programming cancelled and the garden closed to visitors except during Open Hours––we are delighted and amazed by everything our volunteers have helped us accomplish. More than 80 individual volunteers have lent their time and effort to our work this year––the fast-approaching Wreath Fundraiser will increase that tally even further––and have contributed over a thousand volunteer hours. We'd like to take the opportunity to give some well-deserved credit where it's due! Our Hosting Team has braved the elements to help us offer more scheduled Open Hours than any prior season for folks to enjoy safe, accessible outdoor space––not bad considering we couldn’t get started until June. This team is so big and flexible––and game to pitch in––that they are a joy to work with. In fact, right now we’re able to offer three times the weekly Open Hours that we did last year. At a time when we are quite limited in when the garden can be open for the community to enjoy, the Hosting Team has gone the extra mile to make up for it!
Small but mighty, our Garden Waste Team came by every week––in good weather and bad––to make sure that the garbage, recycling, and yard waste from the site was picked up and hauled away. Their unsung but very important work helped us to keep our unwanted rodent visitors down (always important!), made it possible for the public to visit and use the space, and for our other volunteers to keep the site maintained and sanitized. Despite this year’s drought conditions, the garden was lush and green and thriving all season long. We owe so much of this to our dedicated Watering Angels, who made sure that every day of the week the garden had something to drink. Our Waterers are the Growing Center’s secret ingredient, coming out in the harshest heat and on the chilliest mornings with patient, dedicated effort. Thanks to them, the pollinators never lacked for blooms to visit, that is for sure.
Another major reason the Growing Center has looked and felt so healthy and vibrant this season is our wonderful Garden Team. Not only did they help tend the plants and care for the grounds and structures, but they also helped grow extra vegetables and herbs to donate to groups serving folks in our community who need it.
And Garden Team volunteers also jumped in to help us with so many special projects this season––whether it was offering extra help tending our veggie gardens, crafting beautiful hand-painted herb markers, coming in during the early days of the spring (when we had to be otherwise closed due to the pandemic) to wake up the garden for the season, designing beautiful, creative new informational signs for the garden, collecting and drying herbs for a Growing Center-made tea, or hardscaping the stepping stone space leading to the upper patio. It has been so wonderful to have such dedicated volunteers sharing their talents with the garden.
In March, we held our annual Somerville Community Maple Syrup Boil Down, a coordinated effort with Tufts University, Groundwork Somerville, and so many amazing volunteers.
Our volunteers tapped local sugar maple trees on the Tufts campus, collected the sap, transported it across town to be stored, and later delivered it to the Growing Center. During the two-day event itself, they ran the evaporator, talked with visitors, students, and kids groups about the history and process of making maple syrup, and even served sap-tasting samples and treats to folks who joined us for the festivities. We often say our volunteer projects are the work of many hands, and with the Boil Down, we really mean it. At each step of the process, we had so many folks sharing the work and helping to pull off this (frankly gargantuan) task! We want to express our gratitude for everyone’s shared effort on the 2020 Maple Syrup Boil Down.
Back in July, Growing Center volunteers put together a delightful art installation on our Vinal Avenue fenceline as a part of Somerville’s 2020 ArtBeat. Our ArtFence, as it was deemed, focused on pollination––tying into ArtBeat’s theme of “chance”––and volunteers crafted willow and fabric insects to decorate the fence along with placards with interesting facts about the science of pollination. Thank you to our friends and volunteers who helped create this wonderful artwork, and shared it with not just the garden but the whole neighborhood!
We also want to share our appreciation with some friends of the Growing Center who have offered educational and wellness opportunities for our volunteers this season.
This spring, Claire O’Neill––with EarthWise Aware––was quick to work with us to establish safe practices to bring citizen scientist volunteers into the garden as a part of their Pollinator and Insect Program. All season, they conducted surveys to gather data about local insect populations, specifically in urban settings. Claire has also done an amazing job to offer opportunities for Growing Center volunteers––and many others––to learn and get involved through EwA’s Virtual Nature Hours and monthly Plant and Pollinator Documentation Walks (which take place in person at the Growing Center, and are open to all who register for the limited spots in advance). We are truly grateful for all of the amazing opportunities Claire brings to our community and to our site.
Big thanks to local horticulturalist David Falk for his many hours of volunteering in the garden with the Site Coordinator and Garden Team volunteers this year. David planned the replanting of the garden with the Growing Center’s renovation two years ago. The pollinator gardens looked amazing this season and we’ve been learning a lot from him about ecological gardening, soil heath, and native plants. We are so grateful to David for helping us keep the garden looking beautiful and continuing to be a space that benefits the environment and all of those within it, including insects, birds, animals, plants, and the residents of Somerville.
Thank you to Sabrina Pilet-Jones––a farmer at Urban Farming Institute, flower grower, and herbalist––for a lovely CommuniTea educational session that we held for a small group of volunteers. It was the first time we used the beautiful new pergola, settling in our bodies mindfully, acknowledging the roles of plants in our lives, nourishing ourselves with them through tea, while also cultivating a feeling of reciprocity in our work and community building. The tea that was shared was made from herbs grown at the Growing Center, and attendees visited the herb garden with Sabrina to harvest herbs and flowers to take home to dry for tea. We appreciate Sabrina’s sharing of her talents with our volunteers and hope to have her return when we can have public programming once again.
Thank-You Raffle for Volunteers
As a small token of our appreciation for everything that you have done this year––and because we can’t hold an in-person event to thank everyone directly, as we’d like to––we’ll be holding a special volunteers-only raffle in December. Everyone who helped us with a project this year, no matter how big or small, will be entered to win from among these lovely items:
A pint of Growing Center maple syrup
A set of three letterpress cards from Union Press
A bundle of dried tea made from Growing Center herbs
A bundle of dried Growing Center lemongrass
A mix of local harvested seed packets
A jar of (very) locally harvested Concord grape jam (made by Growing Center board member Lisa)
A Growing Center-made framed slate chalkboard
A Growing Center holiday wreath with choice of bow color
A bundle of dried Broom Corn (a gift from Gaining Ground)
The drawing will take place during our Annual Meeting (via Zoom), which all of our volunteers are invited to attend, on Sunday, Dec. 13 (exact time TBD). We will be sharing the finalized meeting details and invitation shortly, but if you already know you'd like to attend, email Christine (firstname.lastname@example.org) to RSVP! Despite the challenges, we are so proud of everything our community has been able to come together and build in 2020. To all of our volunteers––whether you've been with us for two weeks or 25 years, new friends, old friends, and the family members who have jumped in to share the effort––thank you so much for your generosity, your engagement, and your support. This year and every year. In gratitude, The Friends of the Community Growing Center Board