Volunteers brave the rain to help out community farm

Apr 13, 2019

The Dartmouth YMCA’s Spring into Service event was set to take place on Saturday morning, rain or shine.

Rain jackets and boots recommended,” read their Facebook page.

They weren’t kidding.

But despite the driving rain, around 50 volunteers turned up to the YMCA’s Sharing the Harvest Community Farm on Gulf Road to help plant potatoes and strawberries and do other farm chores.

Emily Haber, CEO of the Massachusetts Service Alliance — one of the groups that helped fund the event as part of National Volunteer Week — commented: “We don’t love the weather, but we love the fact that all of these people came out today in this weather.

“I literally was driving here thinking, ‘Who is going to be here — who will show up for this?’”

She told the volunteers, “This is a testament to what this community means to all of you.”

Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator Shonna Ryan was really pleased with the turnout as well.

“It’s surprisingly bigger than I was expecting based on the rain,” she said. “I thought it was really going to turn a lot of people away, but they showed up with their rain jackets and their rain boots and ready to go.”

Families and friends from all over the South Coast came out and worked in the mud in celebration of volunteerism and service.

Several AmeriCorps volunteers also came out to show support, even though they weren’t supposed to.

“This is their day off,” Haber noted. “They served all week long. Nobody’s making them be here. They’re not earning hours for it.”

Along with planting, volunteers were also recruited to help set up the chicken coop, peg plants, and mulch beds.

In return they received bagels and coffee, T-shirts, and even ponchos to keep as dry as possible.

New Bedford resident Julius Jonassaint brought his children, Julius Jr., 4,  and Gabriella, 3, to help out.

“It was fun! Little bit wet, but you know. It still doesn’t take away from the day at all,” he said. “My son asked if he could be a real farmer when he grows up, so I think it’s a good start.”

There was also a cooking demo run by Coastal Foodshed, a New Bedford-based nonprofit that works to make local food more accessible to communities.

Chef Rhonda M. Fazio was cooking up a warm potato salad inspired by her mother and her Sicilian roots.

Fazio works with Coastal Foodshed to develop recipes based on local, seasonal eating combined with ethnic foods.

It’s all for a great cause.

Last year Sharing the Harvest Community Farm produced more than 65,000 pounds of produce as well as 13,000 eggs — and it was all donated to food pantries and shelters throughout the South Coast.

The farm works with one of its partners, the United Way of Greater New Bedford Hunger Commission, to share the goods with those who need it most.

But a lot of the volunteers were just happy to be having fun.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Valerie Ball, who had been planting potatoes with her children Connor, 4, and Natalie, 3.

“I wish I had my husband here to help me,” she laughed. “But I think it’s fabulous...We’re a little muddy, but we’re having a blast.”