Denise Leonard, current chair of the Greenfield Agricultural Commission, past president of the New England Border Collies Association, and chief farmer at TANSTAAFL Farm is one of the featured farmers on the Greenfield Garden Club’ annual garden tour which is including farms for the first time this year. THIS VERY DAY! July 7!
Denise explained that her husband David came up with the name of their farm when they were still living in Leverett more than 25 years ago. He is a science fiction fan and was inspired by Robert Heinlien’s novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress where the phrase “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” and the acronym TANSTAAFL is used frequently. “It seemed appropriate then – and now because there is no free lunch for any of us,” she said. In these hard economic times none of us could argue with that.
On their 30 acres in Greenfield Leonard raises ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigs and sheep. Most of these are sold long before she has to plan a trip to the slaughter house. She also trains sheep dogs, mostly border collies, but sometimes other breeds as well. She will be giving sheep dog demonstrations during the tour.
Ever since she was young and began helping a friend in a 4-H club who needed help showing her sheep Leonard has had sheep. It was the sheep that led her to border collies. Now training sheep dogs is a apart of her farm chores and income. She said many people who come to her with their border collie are interested in agility training. “They come here to the farm and they see my sheep, and our dog working with the sheep, and soon some of them want sheep too,” she said.
While the number of dairy farms has declined in our area, there is an increasing number of farms raising vegetables, fruit and meat. “People are more concerned about where there food comes from than they used to be. It is also easier for them to know about local farms and buy produce directly from the farmer. CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) has had a big impact with its Local Hero program, as has the growth of farmer’s markets,” she said.
In addition to tending to the animals and holding dog training classes, Leonard has a part time job at the University of Massachusetts which would keep most people pretty busy, but the farm also boasts long flower borders that were in beautiful bloom when I visited. I asked her how she managed to do all that. Her reply was, “With great difficulty.” Still she loves daylilies and has about 500 varieties. “They are a low-care plant.” She says that if a plant dies she doesn’t replace it, and it has to survive the weeds. “It is easy to weed around daylilies, and they protect enough of the soil to keep down many weeds,” she said.
“I keep trying to cut down the size of the garden, but . . .” she said with a shrug, uttering a complaint that many of us gardeners can identify with. We can’t get rid of our favorite plants, and when a special new plant comes in view we can’t resist that either.
TANTAASFL Farm is just one of five farms included in this year’s tour, ranging from those selling compost, meat, flowers and herbs. Leonard, and Carol Doerpholz, her Ag Commission colleague and sister Garden Club member, suggested that since the Franklin Land Trust was not having a tour this year, it was an opportunity for the Garden Club to support local farms.
Of course there will be gardens on the tour illustrating the full range of garden types, as well as the personality of the gardeners. All gardeners have to work with their particular site, so there will be a shady woodland garden, a garden that integrates vegetables and flowers in the same bed, an English flower garden that is being transformed incorporating permaculture techniques and plants, as well as a garden with a magnificent built stream, pond and stone patio. There will be inspiration for gardeners, and summer pleasure for those who do not garden.
All proceeds from the Greenfield Garden Club’s tour, and other fundraising events like the annual plant sale, go to funding community projects. Each year grants are given out to the schools for garden related projects. In addition, community groups can apply to the Club for help with a garden related project. Recently the Club bought a tree for the Second Congregational Youth Group to plant on Arbor Day. In addition, the Club has bought plants for the new plant containers, bought by the Beautification Committee, that the town is planting and setting out to give downtown a fresh new look. Education and beautification are two of the goals of the Club.
Tickets for the self guided Farm and Garden Tour are available the day of the tour, Saturday, July 7 between 9 am and 1 pm at the Trap Plain garden at the intersection of Federal and Silver Streets. Tickets are $12 for each person. For more information about the tour and the Garden Club’s activities logon to their website, www.greenfieldgardenclub.org.
Between The Rows June 30, 2012