In the last two years, requests for space in the community garden at Gloucester’s Burham’s Field, an active park in a densely packed neighborhood close to downtown, have tripled.
“City residents have made it clear that they want access to more places to grow their own food in Gloucester,” says Jess Reid, program director at Backyard Growers, the nonprofit urban gardening nonprofit that manages the community garden. “Community gardening at a site like Burnham’s Field is a low-cost and sustainable way for people to access fresh food year after year.”
So, in the face of this soaring demand, Backyard Growers, has announced a plan to expand the Burnham’s Field Community Garden by 30%. The food-growing space, established in 2011, currently serves 37 local households who grow greens, tomatoes, and much more in garden beds set near basketball courts, softball fields, and a playground.
This fall, Backyard Growers will add 11 new raised beds to the garden. Each garden bed will contain nutrient-rich soil from Black Earth Compost. This site’s fence, adjacent to the playground, will also be expanded to enclose the new garden beds.
“For many who live in downtown Gloucester, Burnham’s Field is like their backyard. It’s where kids come to play, adults come to relax or walk their dog, and the community comes together,” says John McElhenny, a member of the Burnham’s Field Community Garden Board. “The Burnham’s Field Community Garden helps to make the field as a whole a more positive space in the heart of central Gloucester. It’s great that this expansion will allow more people to grow their own food and connect with neighbors and friends.”
This program prioritizes serving low- to moderate-income residents, and all of the Burnham’s Field community gardeners receive support, seeds, seedlings, and access to workshops through Backyard Growers.
This expansion is made possible by a Food Security Infrastructure Grant from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, secured by Backyard Growers, as well as generous community fundraising. Last year’s annual Backyard Growers fundraising event, the Great Gloucester GrowDown, was dedicated specifically to supporting this garden expansion.
This year’s GrowDown, scheduled for September 20, will raise money for a braoder range of Backyard Growers programming.
“By empowering people to grow food for their own households, and sometimes for their neighbors as well,” Reid says, “our programs provide the space and resources for the continuation of food traditions, and the creation of new ones.”
Applications open for all of Backyard Growers’ community programs, including Burnham’s Field Community Garden, every January. Visit backyardgrowers.org and sign up for our newsletter to receive updates and alerts when applications are open for the season.