It's been a while since the snow started falling, the ground froze, and the growing season wound down. It's a good time to decompress and take stock of the past year, crunch some numbers, and make sense of it all. Here's a report of the past year's activities, successes and challenges:
A core group of 3-6 members have been meeting bi-monthly at Owl and Raven Community Space in Northampton, on the 2nd and 4th Thurs. of each month from 7 – 8:30p.
We've identified, designed, approached, negotiated and planted at many sites. We'd like to refine this process to make it applicable on a larger scale and in more communities, as volunteers join.
In addition to a core organizing group, a half dozen folks have been involved during larger planting projects. This year, 6 Five College interns logged ~100 hours at Tripple Brook, earning HYS plant credit, as well as doing site prep and plantings. Additionally, 13 8-12th graders from North Star and Four Rivers put in a full week of work on the Rail Trail and beyond, planting and clearing.
2013 - Year in Review:
HYS purchased more than 2,000 plants with funds raised in 2013. These were stored bare root in Northampton before making their way to numerous planting projects in the Valley., or sold to community members to help cover stock costs. Many were healed in at Tripple Brook Farm, Southampton. At the end of the season, we have only a few plants left waiting in pots to get in the ground.
HYS initiated more than 30 ongoing planting projects in a number of towns in the Valley, primarily Northampton, Greenfield and Hadley, making lasting relationships that will grow over time with:
We're involved with design work for some exciting projects for the spring, such as the Hampshire Council of Government's Lawn in Northampton, the Brookie Sculpture Park in Greenfield, the Parent Child Development Center in Amherst.
Projects in the negotiation phase include plantings at the Forbes Library, the Northampton and Holyoke Public Schools, Wentworth Farms Cons. Area in Amherst, the Green River Rec Area in Greenfield, many of Nuestras Raices' community gardens in Holyoke, more small businesses, and community access trees on peoples' home lawns.
Plant volume & handling:
Despite handling a large volume of bare root and fragile stock, we have had very good success. Of all trees planted, only 2 died. Extra seedlings after planting and sales were offered in plant giveaways.
Larger saplings were ordered from Millers Nurseries, Fedco & Tripple Brook. Many plantings consist of 1-3 trees, which could expand to polycultures or forest gardens over time. Bare root orders from Cold Spring Farm & the NH State Forest Nursery shipped more than 1000 <2ft native nut and fruit trees and shrubs. These will b transplantable as larger saplings later. Those remaining will become a food forest near GCC.
While great potential for public planting exists everywhere, circumstances led us to our first round of planting projects:
Networking & Outreach:
A different organizing group has started to form in Greenfield, being the first offshoot of HYS, broadening the focus of organizers from Northampton to the larger Valley. How can community scale and focused chapters collaborate and communicate? What are the benefits of larger, regional cooperation? Let's find out!
HYS received two Ritual Arts Collective community grants, a number of donations of resources and money, had a successful plant sale, and organized a crowd sourcing campaign. Having spent 7000$ on plants and 400$ on supplies, we stand with 2,300$ and plans for a winter fundraiser.
Challenges and Limitations:
Burden of Maintenance:
The burden of maintenance will grow for HYS with each new project, and as existing plantings grow. Though forest garden design aims to create self-maintaining systems, the ability of this organization to demonstrate quality and competently maintained gardens in the future will be limited by the size of volunteer pool, +/or the ability to offer a stipend for a youth maintenance corps. This is critical, as garden presentation affects the decisions of other institutions in regards to planting on their property. Additionally, maintenance effects harvest yield, and will either inspire or disappoint the communities that interact with the plantings.
A wider pool of members would help sustain HYS financially and logistically, spread out maintenance labor and increase capacity for further organization and plantings. This bottleneck has limited the capacity and scope of plantings, in the context of outreach, finding planting locations, and especially, design. If you are reading this... are you willing to get involved?
Navigating the concerns and complex politics and ownership claims of the commons has been getting easier. Can we codify this process?
Goals for 2014:
Next steps: coming up is another big fundraiser, volunteer recruitment and finding homes for this seasons' incoming 1,800 trees!