The campaign to conserve Eva’s Garden

Aug 24, 2019

“Taste anything you want,” Eva Sommaripa told twenty-four strangers, with a sweep of her arm indicating everything in her fields on Jordan Road in South Dartmouth.

Many visitors were in various stages of doing precisely that: Bending over to pick pea tendrils, chewing purslane, or popping red cherry tomatoes into their mouths at the renowned organic garden.

One woman even found a lucky four-leaf clover, which she chose not to eat.

Sommaripa hosted a free tour of the 21-acre property (including her three-acre farm) on Friday evening, walking guests through forest and field and pointing out wild plants for foraging as well as sustainably grown herbs, greens, and edible flowers.

Buzzards Bay Coalition and Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust organized the event as part of a campaign to conserve the rich farmland and forest resources in the area.

The two non-profits have partnered up to protect two South Dartmouth properties Eva’s garden and Apponagansett Bay Farm near Dike Creek with conservation restrictions to prevent development of the coastal landscape.

According to the conservation plans, 11 acres of Sommaripa’s property will be placed under an agricultural conservation restriction to allow for sustainable farming, while the remaining 10 acres will be placed under a forest conservation restriction.

“We are raising money to conserve this farm forever,” said Buzzards Bay Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “That’s the impetus for today.”

Rasmussen said that they received a grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for $350,000 — but they still need $300,000 more in private funding. 

“Part of doing the walk today was really just to continue to gin up interest and people supporting this acquisition,” he said.

Sommaripa herself, a linchpin of sustainable agriculture on the South Coast, seemed as excitable as ever.

“Let yourself get intoxicated on these aromas!” she said at one point, in characteristic rapture.

Produce from Eva’s Organic Garden is highly regarded in the culinary world. 

After starting her backyard garden in 1972, she made a name for herself selling unusual foraged plants like purslane and sorrel — commonly regarded as weeds — to chefs all over New England.

“She’s legendary,” said sustainability manager Kate Crosby, who came down from Acton for the tour. “I’m really excited to be here...I just really wanted to see her land.”

“I think she blazed a trail for sustainable farming here,” Crosby added. “She’s mentored many young farmers.”

Sommaripa showed off her five-year solar panels — “We paid everything back in three years,” she noted, “It was the best investment ever” — and stacked bags of coffee chaff, organic waste that she collects from coffee roasters and adds to the soil. 

“Worms love it,” she said of the nutrient-rich matter.

It seemed that many of the visitors were impressed with the tour.

“Eva’s very entertaining and informative,” said retired architect Charlie Sawyer of Dartmouth, watching people split garlic cloves nearby. “You can’t go wrong with that.”