Friday, July 16, 2010
ConsCom seeks harmony at Foss Farm community gardens
To ease mounting tensions at the Foss Farm Community Gardens, the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) will handle matters relative to garden rules directly rather than through the garden managers. This decision came at the July 8 meeting after a lengthy discussion of a provision of the 2010 rules which says: “Each plot must be tended primarily by the household assigned to that plot. It is not acceptable to regularly tend to someone else’s plot unless you notify the garden manager of extenuating circumstances.”
Last winter the Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) sought to address concerns and differences of opinion among gardeners about appropriate gardening practices, the number of plots a given gardener should have, and how abandoned plots should be handled. Some gardeners with one or two plots desired more. Some objected to a few people working a large number of plots (one group has ten). Some thought it inappropriate for products grown at Foss to be sold commercially, including at the Carlisle Farmers Market.
After meeting with the gardeners, the LSC drafted a set of rules based on the input it received. The ConsCom adopted the rules after holding a public hearing. As part of the new approach, the board appointed a garden manager, Jack O’Connor, and two assistants, Carol Foster and Ed Humm. Part of the responsibilities of the volunteer managers has been to note adherence to the rules.
A number of gardeners have expressed growing discomfort to the ConsCom, feeling the managers were monitoring them. This past week one gardener said: “All efforts ought to be put forth by the commission to make gardening at Foss Farm an amicable experience before the situation gets any worse.”
The ConsCom agreed that the atmosphere is deteriorating and the rules are causing more divisiveness. Commissioner Tricia Smith said: “There is an intimidation factor” and “In this first year of rules there shouldn’t be policing of who is gardening which plots.” She felt that not all voices were heard at last winter’s meetings because some gardeners were hesitant to speak up. Commissioner Debra Kimbrell-Anderson agreed: “It is not clear to me that all of the gardeners have bought into the rules.”
Commissioner Peter Burn noted: “We changed the rules and people signed on in their contracts this year.” He later added: “I am happy to consider changing them if the majority of gardeners don’t like them.” All agreed they had unfairly put the managers in the middle of the situation. Chair Kelly Guarino said: “We want this to be friendly and we, as a commission, are going to take responsibility for making it so.”
As another part of the effort to “put the ‘community’ back into community gardens,” the ConsCom decided to ask the LSC to explore the feasibility of gardening on larger plots or even small-scale commercial agriculture on other conservation properties. Commissioner Tom Brownrigg pointed out that this is timely because the LSC is currently preparing a conservation land management plan. Willard noted that she has had numerous inquiries from people seeking to farm on town conservation lands.
Garden rules can be found at carlislema.gov/Pages/CarlisleMA_ConComm/2010%20Plot%20Application.PDF. ∆
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