A visit to Gaining Ground
Meredith Days, Outreach and Communications Assistant
Gaining Ground is a 3-acre farm in Concord, Massachusetts that utilizes no-till practices, and is one of the Gleaners’ longtime partners! All of the food grown at Gaining Ground is donated to local hunger relief agencies. They have 18 hunger relief partners that they donate produce to, 15 of which get produce every week. Their growing season is generally from May to early October, but they distribute to some hunger relief partners all winter. Food insecurity increases in Massachusetts in the winter months, so Gaining Ground also spends time thinking about how they can serve their partners by growing storage crops. Examples of storage crops include squash, root vegetables like carrots, and onions - crops that last in storage! Gaining Ground is also interesting in that they do maple sugaring in the winter, driving around Concord to tap over 50 different trees. With all of the produce going to food pantries, Gaining Ground experiences consistent demand. This gives their crew the flexibility to harvest entire fields and plant cover crops when it is most advantageous to them.
The land where Gaining Ground is located is the traditional homeland of the Nipmuc and Algonquin Nations. The land was farmed for about 100 years for rhubarb and asparagus. Gaining Ground has been there for a little over 20 years.
At Gaining Ground, the farm runs on volunteer labor. This year alone, there have been over 1800 volunteers out to help the farmers with their harvest. In years past, the number of volunteers has been over 2500! The volunteer program connects people to the land and helps expose them to food access issues. This year is the first year Gaining Ground has had a farm Education Manager, Erin, who was nice enough to show us around and answer our many questions when we visited! In the last year, the organization has tried to push for the volunteer program to be mission oriented and educational as a way to engage people beyond volunteering.
We also learned a lot about soil preservation from Erin, and the importance of thinking about the soil content. We got to see one of their high-tunnel greenhouses full of carrots with no weeds at all - Erin told us that “when you build microbes in the soil through no till practices it’s much harder for weeds to grow” which was incredible to see. No-till practices take a long time to show their impact though, so the work is a long term investment into the land for the future. The benefit of no-till means not having to feed the soil as much with fertilizers, having way less pests, and spending less time weeding in general!
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Boston Area Gleaners
91 Martin Street
Acton, MA 01720