By Judith Dorato O’Gara
The Bellingham Community Garden is teeming with life this year, and a huge part of that growth is the emergence of the Bellingham Garden Club of Massachusetts.
“We made a significant amount of changes from last year to this year, bringing it to where it should be,” continues DeFosses, who’s lived in Bellingham for about seven years. “This past year has been really exciting with some of the newer things we brought in as well.”
Probably the biggest news is the newly formed “Bellingham Garden Club of MA,” which is actively seeking members. “We started a brand-new club, a nonprofit 501 c3 under that umbrella, and we also fall under 509A2, which is a public charity,” she adds, “We’ve centered a lot of our work to help with food disparity, food insecurity and do a significant amount of donations from the produce we grow. Our focus, and mission, is to be able to continue that platform while concomitantly addressing some of the needs toward beautification of town property and the community in general.” The fledgling Garden Club will work to educate the community, helping people to understand what’s involved in agriculture.
The Bellingham Community Garden, which will be the site of a number of Garden Club programs this year, recently got a donation of mulch from Scally’s Tree Service.
In the past three months, the Bellingham Community Garden and Farm stand has raised $2,700 in personal community resident and business donations, including a considerable $2,500 donation from Dean Bank in Bellingham.
The young garden club has a $1,500 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for a breadth of educational community activities, and, through DeFosses’ effort, the town of Bellingham has received a Food Security Infrastructure Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, for $22,755 for the Community Garden and Farm stand.
“That was a long task. It took me about 3 months to write,” says DeFosses of the very complicated grant. “That … will improve the grow space of the garden itself. This is specifically for funding to build a greenhouse, to be able to have a new shed that will house tools and supplies, to build a better irrigation system and to also enhance the farm stand, which is in deep need of repair.”
These two grants were DeFosses’ first.
“This was my first rodeo, just putting that old college experience into writing and a whole lot of prayer,” she laughs. “We were very, very excited (to receive the grants).”
In the meantime, she says, the fundraising and awareness campaign continues for the Bellingham Garden Club. This month, in fact, the group will hold a plant sale on May 7th, at the Bellingham Senior Center at 40 Blackstone Street, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Funds will go toward outreach programs and efforts to alleviate food disparity.
“Last year, we raised over 100 pounds of food, in a small grow season, we donated to the Uxbridge Food Pantry as well as Dorchester Food Fridge,” says DeFosses.
The continued fundraising will help with agri-educational programs as well.
Next month, the YAG Program, a youth agriculture program, kicks off with a Junior Farm Day workshop on June 4th for children aged 3-18, in which young people can learn about agriculture, including plants, seed cultivating, soil quality and planting.
“Also, they’ll have a plot available to them where they can plant pumpkin seeds, then we show the young people how to plant it and what to expect. That’s a really exciting program,” says DeFosses. In March, the Garden Club presented a program on composting, and in April, a program on the benefits of bees. Aspiring artists can also sign up for “Art in the Garden,” taught by experienced artists, which will take place on Sundays in June.
DeFosses is thrilled to be able to do so much this year.
“We’re hitting the ground running, as they say, and we’re looking also to beautify grow spaces in the town of Bellingham as well,” she says. “Fundraising will continue these programs and expand further.
In mid-April, DeFosses said the group was looking to launch an improved website to make it easier for the community to connect with the group.
“We have a Facebook page that is wonderful, that’s geared a lot toward the farm stand,” she says. “It also helps for people to see how we grow and how they can obtain a CSA purchase.”
The new garden club’s focus will be on the community in general, as well as supporting the community garden, explains DeFosses.
“All of the workshops are under the auspices of the Bellingham Garden Club, including the education and the beautification,” she points out, “We’re looking for members and to get those members interested in becoming part of the community, to support the Garden Club mission.”
The Bellingham Garden Club meets virtually or in person every third Tuesday of the month. The Bellingham Community Garden is located at 200 Center St., in Bellingham, and their temporary site, until the more permanent one is established, is at https://sites.google.com/view/bellinghamgardenclubma/home
. You can also search “Bellingham Farm Stand” on Facebook.