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A Field for the Hungry

Ev Hatch's tomatoes for a Community Harvest

Ev Hatch will never forget the seed salesman who talked to him about his upcoming retirement.  Instead of selling seeds, he was  going to plant a lot of vegetable seeds, tend the plot and donate all the vegetables to food pantries.

Over his career Hatch has planted a lot of seeds, in the ground, and in the community as he worked for the Cooperative Extension Service and 4-H. After his  retirement in 1977 from these agricultural state enterprises  he began farming out on Plain Road in Greenfield.  At first he grew a little bit of everything including strawberries, but eventually he focused on strawberries. Hatch’s Patch supplied beautiful berries to the cooks and happy eaters of the area for many years.

Four years ago he gave up farming, but continues to grow his own garden. His land is rented to Kyle Bostrom who uses Hatch’s greenhouses to grow and sell vegetable starts and bedding plants. A new sign for The Patch still welcomes gardeners in the spring.

With his farming days finished the words of that seed salesman came back to Hatch.  He had land available, and he had labor available at his church, First Congregational Church in Greenfield, as they planned their Feet, Hands and Voices to Faith project.

He plowed up a quarter acre and he had a flashback.  When the tiller broke he remembered that what he hated most about farming was equipment that broke down just when you needed it. Everything had to stop while you figured out how to repair it. Nothing was broken in the hearts or hands of a crew from the church who helped with planting the field on May16th.

He speaks with such passion about the aggravation of farm equipment that I had to ask what he liked about farming. That was easy, he laughed. “I like the independence. You can do what you want.”

I allowed as how Mother Nature had something to say about what you needed to do at any given moment, and he agreed that was true. “But a farmer can figure out what the market wants, and how he can fit into the system. There is always a challenge, and you figure out how to meet the challenge yourself. No one is telling you what to do.”

If fixing equipment is his least favorite farm chore, he said his favorite is hoeing. “I love to hoe. I just stand there and zonk out.”

However, we have come to the season where there is no time for zonking out.  When I first  talked to Hatch about the field of tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, winter squash and broccoli I asked how could he ever manage the harvest and get the produce to the food pantries. He said he would need help.

Help is being organized now, as the harvest season officially begins on July 12.  Mark Maloni, Projects Coordinator at Community Action is scheduling volunteers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9 to 11.  You don’t have to be an experienced gardener who has been picking vegetables for years, but you do need to call Maloni and let him know when you can come, or when he needs volunteers. He hopes that most volunteers will be able to commit to two or three (or more) sessions,  but if you can only come once, any help is welcomed.

Packing crates will be located in the greenhouse. When filled they should be moved across the street to the Hatch home where they can rest in the shade.  The Franklin Area Survival Center will pick up the harvest one day a week, the Center for Self Reliance will pick it up another day, and the Orange Food Pantry will take the harvest on the third day. Volunteers should bring their own drinking water, hats, and sunscreen.

If you cannot help harvest Hatch’s field, but have a productive garden, you can donate any extra produce to any one of the area food pantries or meal sites. Open hours and coordinators’ names for at least 11 food sites are listed on the Plant a Row website: www.parwwmass.blogspot.com.

The number of families in our area who are enduring food insecurity continues to grow. An indication of the severity of this problem is the growth in the Eat 4 Free program. This federal program for communities with more than 50% of children eligible for free and reduced meals in the schools has been operating for 20 years. “The number of children being served has tripled in the last eight years,” said Bernie Novack, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Greenfield Schools.

Novack said that after the long Fourth of July weekend 750 breakfasts were served, and 1250 lunches. “Many of these children hadn’t had a good meal since Friday,”

I have seen Eat 4 Free signs posted at some of the meal sites as I’ve driven around town, at Federal Street School, Greenfield Gardens, Greenfield Swimming Pool and 10 other sites. Depending on the site, the program will run for between six to nine weeks. All a child has to do is walk in. No questions asked.

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The only question asked at local daylily sales this weekend and next is “How many do you want?” Lorraine Brennan on Rt 10 in Northfield is selling daylilies July 10, 11, 17 and 18 from 9-1 pm.  Richard Willard at Silver Garden Daylilies on Glenbrook Road is digging daylilies on July 10 from 9 am – 4 pm, and on July 17 he is holding the Annual Daylily Festival with edible daylily treats. Logon to www.silvergardendaylilies.com for full information.

Between the Rows   July 10, 2010

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