Pittsfield Community Gardens Program Highlights

Pittsfield Community Gardens Program

Season Highlights 2013 - 2014

 PITTSFIELD – The Pittsfield Department of Community Development and Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) announce the continuation of their partnership in ensuring the success of the City’s Community Gardens Program for the upcoming 2014-2015 growing season. The City would also like to recognize BCAC’s past and future commitment acting as the City’s fiscal agent for the garden programs and for helping to grow the program each year. 

 The City plans to contribute $15,000 again for the 2014-2015 year to help BCAC provide a community gardener to tend five community gardens throughout the City. The community gardens are located at: Conte Community School, Morningside Community School, Coolidge Park, Robbins Avenue, and the Rice Silk Mill. 

 BCAC hired Julia Lemieux as the community gardener for the 2013-2014 year, and with the help of approximately 65 volunteers, Julia cultivated approximately 1,200 pounds of produce between all of the garden locations.  Approximately 400 pounds of produce grown at Conte Community School and Coolidge Park gardens was donated to Conte Community School kitchen, Kid’s Club families, and residents of the immediate neighborhood.  The Robbins Avenue community garden produced approximately 500 pounds of produce which was donated to the nearby Christian Center and neighborhood residents.  The 300 pounds of produce that was grown at the Rice Silk Mill Apartments garden was donated to the Berkshire Dream Center and Rice Silk Mill residents.

 Mayor Bianchi stated, “The community gardens are an asset to Pittsfield.  Everyone should have access to fresh, locally grown, quality produce and these gardens fill that need. I am proud to support community gardening and look forward to their future growth.”

 Highlights of the 2013-2014 community gardens activity also included strong educational programming directed by both Julia Lemieux and the previous community gardener, Carrie Petrik-Huff.  For example, during the 2013-2014 season the Conte Community School garden was operated in partnership with key staff members from Berkshire Children and Families and the Conte Community School cafeteria.  Weekly educational programming occurred for 25 K-5 children enrolled in the Conte Kid’s Club from May to November.  Activities included planting, weeding, mulching, harvesting, and washing produce. The children learned about harvesting and saving seeds in the fall and they started a small “seed bank” of harvested seeds that is being stored for 2015. Student’s made a variety of easy to assemble recipes using garden grown produce and other simple ingredients. Sampling of recipes were a huge hit and the children created a cookbook of recipes that they had made during programming to bring home.  Students in the Conte Kid’s Club also engaged in artistic activities such as creating labeling for the plants in the garden, creating signage for the new compost, cookbook artwork, and painting pumpkins in the fall.  The Morningside garden program partnered with Berkshire Children and Families Morningside Kid’s Club.  A total of 25 students were offered weekly programming from June to October.  Activities included planting, weeding, harvesting, recipe assembling, taste testing and arts and crafts.  The food grown was all eaten as snack at the kid’s club.  The initial relationship with the school staff and Kid’s club staff has been established and everyone was very positive about the garden programming. 

Produce grown at the gardens included raspberries, summer squash, cucumbers, basil, lemon verbena, summer savory, sage, rosemary, celery, cabbage, collards, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, tomatoes, garlic, rhubarb, strawberries, carrots, radishes, swiss chard and beans.  Produce was cut and served in the Kid’s Club.  Additional produce was brought home by families.  Vegetables were also used in the Conte Community School Cafeteria during the school year and in the summer through the free lunch program.

Depending on the level of funding for the 2014-2015 growing season, Julia Lemieux and Carrie Petrik-Huff hope to expand the Coolidge Park garden and expand the Farm to School grant funded garden at Morningside Community School.  A basic blog website for the Pittsfield Community Gardens was established this year at www.pittsfieldcommunitygardens.wordpress.com. Volunteers are always welcome and needed.  If you would like to get involved please contact Julia Lemieux at gardener@bcacinc.org.