Growing season underway at YMCA farm

Apr 20, 2021

As the state reopens and more residents get back to work, Dartmouth’s YMCA is working to combat food insecurity on the South Coast.

On April 20, the head of YMCA Southcoast and other officials from the nonprofit youth organization came out to the Dartmouth Y to announce a partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank, kicking off the 2021 Full Plate Project to support families in need.

“We now see a path for recovery, revitalization, and ultimately sustainability,” said James Scherer, CEO of YMCA Southcoast. 

The Dartmouth Y is also planting crops at its Sharing the Harvest Farm.

“We have this wonderful resource and we’ve augmented it for food insecurity,” Scherer said.

The produce grown on the Gulf Road property will be distributed to the United Way of Greater New Bedford.

According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, one in nine people in Bristol County lived in food insecure homes before the pandemic began.

“The time to act was overdue,” Chief Operating Officer Carol Tienken said.

Sharing the Harvest is a non-profit, volunteer-driven farm that aims to provide food security and agricultural education to the South Coast. 

Since its inception in 2006, it has donated more than 600,000 pounds of produce to those in need across the region.

While it’s still early in the Y’s growing season, Farm Director Ashley Brister said some farming has already begun — mostly with seeding the plots, although some scallions and eggs have already been distributed.

“Our chickens really did a lot of the production so far,” she laughed. “But the radishes should be ready soon.” 

Brister added that the next two weeks will mostly consist of preparing the fields on the five acre property, along with inviting small groups of volunteers.

Usually, the farm relies on a large number of volunteers and kids to help with the harvests, but Covid restrictions reduced that to a small core of seasonal staff for last year’s harvests. 

The goal for this 2021, she said, is to grow 70,000 pounds of produce to distribute. Last year, the farm harvested around 65,000 pounds.

“Really, it’s about focusing on the quality and the nutrients,” Brister noted.

Along with increasing production, the farm director highlighted some other future plans such as getting some new fencing and trying to introduce more native pollinators to the farm so they can pollinate the crops.

But for the immediate future, Brister said the farm’s current focus is to “get some rocks out of the field and begin planting.”