Vale garden in new hands
Adults take over for youth agency
SCHENECTADY An adult version of Roots & Wisdom is taking over that group’s former garden plot at Vale Cemetery.
Transitions, a group aiming for self-sufficiency through agriculture, was eager to take over the plot when Roots & Wisdom had to cut back.
The youth agency teaches teenagers how to farm in urban gardens. But its county grant was reduced this year, so it had to cut back; it will focus on two gardens at Central Park.
But that left Vale with a problem. The plot, in a corner near the Brandywine Avenue entrance, had been hoed, leaving a bumpy, uneven surface. The cemetery mowers couldn’t handle it, and officials feared it would turn to unmanageable weeds.
Transitions was eager to step in.
“We’re all farmer wannabees,” said Transitions member Donna Lessard.
They were delighted to be given an entire half-acre in full sun. In fact, as soon as they got the news, they rushed to the plot mid-winter to plant some seeds.
“We tried to do some winter rye and winter wheat, but we may have been a little late on that,” she said.
That failure didn’t discourage them. They also used three rototillers to turn the frozen soil, and then transplanted “winter-over” plants, including onions.
They also started seeds in a member’s backyard greenhouse, waiting for the last frost to melt so they can be planted safely.
“We’re like kids in a candy shop,” Lessard said.
The group hotly debated what to plant, drawing maps and plotting out exactly how to use every square foot. They plan to donate most of the food, just like Roots & Wisdom. Their produce will mostly go to the YWCA, City Mission, Salvation Army and the food pantry. But they’ll get to take some home for themselves.
Like Roots & Wisdom, they will also work with youth — although they’re not paying them.
The Schenectady High School boxing team plans to volunteer.
They’re also hoping to work with Schenectady County Community College officials, who might build a garden on campus.
It’s all part of their mission — to spread self-sufficiency.
“It’s about showing people how easy it is to live out of your backyard,” member Gary Lessard said.
Member Clarence Fountain added, “We’re running out of resources and the future is going to be more local, less energy intensive and probably less consumption in total. … As a community, we need to take care of all our needs.”
The Lessards are able to grow about 90 percent of their food in their Schenectady backyard.
It’s easier than people think, Gary Lessard said.
Donna Lessard added that it’s not possible to be completely self-sufficient.
“Completely is an exaggeration,” she said “We’re working toward that, but completely is a bit much.”
Still, her husband said, people can do much more than they expect.
“We feel the first step is farming in your backyard,” he said.
Transitions meets monthly. The next meeting is March 28 at 6 p.m. at the main branch of the library.