by Janet Asiain
Transition Towns in Ulster County have developed in a variety of productive ways over the last few years. One of the most successful initiatives is in Woodstock, where a number of working groups are actively envisioning a sustainable future and creating the changes needed for it And one of the most successful of these working groups is the Woodstock Garden Share.
The Garden Share was launched at the Woodstock Transition Town Great Unleashing of community energy in September 2012. Several Woodstockers in attendance found themselves drawn together in an affinity group that quickly found a common purpose: the production of sustainable food for the community to meet present and future needs. To this end they actively network with local farmers and promote home gardens; “Why mow when you can chew?” asks Craig Barber, one of the founders.
With about 80 members now on their mailing list, the group meets monthly to support each other, share information and skills, and network, sometimes at potlucks at one another’s homes, often upstairs at the public library. They frequently extend invitations to the general public to learn about sustainable practices, inviting speakers with expertise in permaculture and/or other aspects of sustainable food production. Ellenville’s permaculture guru Andrew Faust has shared his knowledge with the group, and this month’s meeting on April 8 will feature Ken Greene of the Hudson Valley Seed Library.
Supporting each other includes cutting costs and ensuring quality by ordering seeds, starter plants, compost, soil amendments, and other gardening supplies together. Acting on the Transition principle of supporting local businesses, they recently made a group order of seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, whose Hudson Valley Seed Freedom Zone the group is committed to support. A Seed Freedom Zone protects the rights of farmers and food producers, preserves biodiversity, and refuses to recognize any law that illegitimately mak
es seed the private property of corporations through patents and other means.
Also in the interest of seed sustainability, the group promotes the harvesting of (organic) seeds from members’ gardens and has recently established a seed exchange at the Woodstock Library, where gardeners can contribute seeds left over from their own planting or harvested from their own gardens. Anyone is welcome to take what they can use (and hopefully contribute back to the seed exchange at some point). The “Take, Grow, Give” project has placed packages of envelopes of seeds and seed sharing information booklets in the food/gardening section of the Woodstock Library.
The Woodstock Garden Share actively partners with local farms in the area, including Whirligig Farm, Great Song Farm, the Long Spoon Collective (a Saugerties Transition Town working group), Four Winds Farm, and Clove Valley Farm. The initiative has invited speakers from these farms and others to speak at Garden Share meetings.
The group has also offered a number of outreach events, “how to” workshops on container gardens, building and planting trellises, and rotating garden crops, for example, and plan to continue and expand these offerings.
Among their visions for the future is the connecting of people who have land but no garden with people who want to garden but have no suitable land.They also hope to find and develop public spaces where food could be grown and available to the entire community. They’d like to attract some energetic young people who want to learn to garden, both in public and private spaces. One member’s dreams include building a community greenhouse for all to use.
Woodstock Garden Share continues to welcome new members, both experienced and novice.
You can get more information on the Woodstock Transition Town Facebook page as well as at the website woodstocknytransition.org.