Backyard Growers’ spring services take root, despite virus

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BAILEY SAPUTO and MILA BARRY

In these trying times, Backyard Growers continues to do what it can to help the community. Spring has come despite the chaos of COVID-19, and this organization is determined to ensure that crucial spring gardening tasks can be completed as usual. 

Soon after the implications the pandemic began to manifest themselves, Backyard Growers rolled out a plan to make sure that their usual programs could be provided. According to Corinne Lippie, the organization’s Program Director, BYG’s myriad of spring services have been altered to get gardening supplies to community members without risking viral exposure. 

“We quickly developed an online shop and then offered free delivery to Gloucester and Rockport residents of resources to help people grow food, including bags of Black Earth compost, seeds, our new felt Grow Bags, and more. In total, we got over 1,000 growing resources out to over 150 local households in the month of April through delivery and curbside pickup,” said Lippie. Previously, BYG operated a store front downtown where gardeners could purchase the items they required.

The non-profit has also been looking out for more under-resourced communities, making sure nobody’s raised beds are left unsown.

Said Lippie: “We delivered free seeds and seedlings to our community and backyard gardeners at the housing developments at Willowood, Riverdale, Pond View, McPherson Park.”

And for those who relied on BYG volunteers for their farming expertise, there are now virtual training sessions to help new gardeners navigate the process by themselves. 

Beyond these new provisions, the Backyard Garden Program has been working on building raised garden beds in the backyards of low-to-moderate income senior citizens. Members have also been fixing up many raised beds at gardens in the community and adding compost so that residents have the best soil for the best results once the growing season begins.

For schools, they are making repairs to the beds and are continuing to plant crops to put into school food distribution. BYG is also taking special steps for the young students to give them the gardening and harvesting experience they weren’t able to have as a class. 

“We are putting together Salad Day lettuce planting kits for all the 2nd graders in Gloucester so that they can do a version of our lettuce planting at home in lieu of the district-wide salad days we usually hold in the spring for 100% of the elementary school kids in Gloucester,” explained Lippie.

Like everyone however, BYG is also planning for the time that will follow our current isolation. The group is looking for volunteers to help out over the summer, particularly on a new project (a permaculture garden!) at the high school. For more information, reach out to community@backyardgrowers.org.