LibraryFarm wraps up first growing season
Caitlin Donnelly 09/28/10
The concept of the LibraryFarm originated from a passage that Meg Backus, adult programming coordinator at NOPL, read in a book by David Ross. The passage inspired Backus to think about libraries as an “intersection between the economy and society.”
Five months after the initial public interest meeting on January 23, the one-half acre field was plowed for the first time by the North Syracuse Parks and Recreation on June 24. Work on tilling compost from the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency Amboy site into the soil began June 26 with the help of Chris Danbach of Veteran Lawn Care and Landscaping and his crew.
The field was then divided into two separate sections: the individual plots for personal use and the community plot for shared gardening responsibilities. Before the “farm,” the land was vacant and the library had no plans for its use.
“The cost of checking out a plot for the season is the same as the cost of checking out a book or DVD,” said Backus. “That is, there’re no fee attached to the plot, but there is a responsibility, just like there is with the other kinds of library materials.” Individual plots are maintained and harvested by that person, family or group only.
The shared plot is for those that would like to participate in the LibraryFarm, but can’t commit to maintaining their own garden. In exchange for picking herbs and vegetables from the community garden, people water and pick weeds to help. Backus said there has even been discussion about donating some of the vegetables from the shared plot to local food pantries, which lack fresh foods.
To maintain an “organic” garden, no chemical fertilizers or chemicals are allowed into the LibraryFarm plots.
During the LibraryFarm’s pilot season, 10 residents have chosen to garden at the library, and 10 others were involved in the planning process, said Backus.
Patti Herrmann, of Cicero is one of these people.
An avid gardener since the 1970s, past-president of the Men’s Gardening Club of Syracuse and member of the Edible Gardening Club, Herrmann was involved with the initial planning stages of the garden, and now rents a plot in the LibraryFarm. This summer she grew squash, watermelon, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and an unwieldy pumpkin plant.
Tom Gokey, of Syracuse, also rents a plot at the LibraryFarm. This summer he planted beans, summer squash and lettuce, and frequently weeds and waters the community plot. He believes the LibraryFarm is an interesting concept, especially since it was his wife, Backus’s, idea.
“The nature of the library is to pool resources, and everyone has access to it. The LibraryFarm functions in the same way that people can grow and share the vegetables together, and it’s exciting to see what happens,” Gokey said.
Backus said she would like to expand the garden, and even add a habitat flower garden to the mix in the future, “but it’s not my garden or my land, it’s the publics, so it’s not up to me to decide how to use it.”
While the LibraryFarm’s current growing season comes to an end, Backus said there are many workshops and activities planned for the upcoming cold months to keep residents involved in the preparation process for next season’s garden.
The first workshop was held Sept. 11, where topics of discussion were how to improve your soils with compost and what cover crops to plant for the upcoming winter months. The workshop was lead by the Edible Gardening Club’s John Allen, a 30-year gardening veteran. Special guest speaker Gregory Gelewski, Recycling Operations Manager at the OCRRA Amboy site, was also present to discuss the importance of composting. The workshops are open to the public, and you do not have to rent a plot in the LibraryFarm to attend.
For more information about the LibraryFarm, the gardening workshops, or how to rent a plot next season, contact Meg Backus email@example.com or call 699-2534 x20.
Future Workshops 2010-11
Where: NOPL at Cicero, 8686 Knowledge Lane
When: 10 a.m. Saturdays
Nov. 13 - Why be organic? How?
Dec. 11 - What to grow, how much space plants need to grow
Jan. 8 - Succession planting, ordering seeds.
Feb. 19 – Starting seeds indoors
March 19 – Planting seeds and seedlings outdoors
April 9 – Watering and fertilizing
May 14 – Pests and other problems