Fort River Farm Conservation Area

Grow Food Amherst and the Town Conservation Department have begun work at the new Fort River Farm Conservation Area next to the Fort River School.  The first step is to delineate the wetlands on the site to make sure all work is done according to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Town Wetland Bylaw.

Volunteers with Grow Food Amherst have begun to develop about 1/3 acre as our new Sharing Garden.  According to Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst Sustainability Coordinator, the first planting was edible native berry plants that will attract pollinators as well as feed people.

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Preparing the Sharing Garden for planting – Summer 2015

Much of the plot was planted with a buckwheat cover crop to support pollinators and prepare the site for planting in the fall of 2015.

First Planting

Thanks to a generous contribution from the Hadley Garden Center, Grow Food Amherst volunteers and students from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture planted about 50 small fruit plants.

Amherst Sustainability Coordinator, Stephanie Ciccarello, is consulting with Grow Food Amherst member, Rebecca Fricke, while volunteers plant donated plants at the new farm.

Amherst Sustainability Coordinator, Stephanie Ciccarello (left), consulting with Grow Food Amherst member, Rebecca Fricke, while volunteers plant small fruits and perennial vegetables at the new farm.

Here are a few pictures of the volunteers at work….

volunteersThe following spring, Stephanie Ciccarello and her intrepid volunteers weeded and mulched around the plants that survived the winter. Without a regular source of water for irrigation, the plants were a bit stressed.

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Here are a few more pictures from the spring and summer of 2016!

Juliette and Becky weed and water the raspberries

Juliette and Becky weed and water the raspberries

Stephanie planting pumpkins and winter squash

Stephanie planting pumpkins and winter squash

David knocking down the rye cover crop with a scythe

David knocking down the rye cover crop with a scythe

Pumpkin transplants just getting started

Pumpkin transplants just getting started

Hops plants from the fall of 2015

Hops plants from the fall of 2015

Seaberry and Honeyberry Plants from Fall of 2015

Seaberry and Honeyberry Plants from Fall of 2015

 

 

Nice job knocking down the rye cover crop. Thanks Gabor!

“Old school” use of a scythe!  Nice job knocking down the rye cover crop. Thanks Gabor!

Berry plants are mulched with straw cut by Gabor

John Root plants a new Paw Paw tree!

During 2016, volunteers will continue to weed and plant perennial fruit plants.  The Steering Committee of Grow Food Amherst continues to explore ways to continue the work.  If you want to help, please join us for one of our monthly meetings or contact Stephanie Ciccarello

You are invited ANYTIME to stop by with water.  The perennial fruit plantings need lots!

Here is what the garden looks like at the end of June.

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Background

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs awarded a grant for $105,665 to help acquire land for development of the proposed Town Farm and Public Gardens.  In addition, the Amherst Town Meeting voted to support a request for $41,785 of Community Preservation Act funds to complete the purchase. The Kestral Trust helped Amherst with bridge funding.

Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grants are designed to help cities and towns acquire land for conservation and outdoor recreational uses. To qualify for the grants, communities must fund projects upfront and the protected open space must be open to the public.  According to the grant application submitted by the Town:

this 19-acre farm field and wetland is located in the East Amherst Village Center with frontage on Fort River.  It will be used for new model community garden with a large tillable area instead of individual plots. Licenses may also be granted to area farmers to farm 1-2 acre plots. A trail with accessible component will be integrated throughout property with educational signage. Adjacent to Fort River Elementary School, it can be accessed via an easement through adjacent properties, and by footbridge to be built from the school.”

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Anyone who wants to help with the project should contact Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst Sustainability Coordinator, at CiccarelloS@amherstma.gov.

Map

fortriverfarmmapTo find the garden, walk or bike down the dirt road between Ren’s Used Cars and the (closed) Sunoco Station at 40 Belchertown Rd., just south of the Fort River School.


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