2007-05-24 / News

Jamestown Community Farm opens this weekend

By Sam Bari

By Sam Bari

Maureen Ryall with children, Danny and Melissa Bershad, are regular volunteers at the Jamestown Community Farm. Maureen Ryall with children, Danny and Melissa Bershad, are regular volunteers at the Jamestown Community Farm. The Jamestown Community Farm at East Shore Road and the old Eldridge Avenue opens this weekend on Saturday, May 26, from 9 a.m. to noon. Bob Sutton, former Jamestown town manager and co-founder of the farm, will be on hand to help volunteers get the planting started for the farm's seventh season of growing food to help the needy.

Sutton said the farm will be open for volunteers every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, and every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 5:30 p.m. until sundown through the month of October.

He said volunteers are asked to bring sunscreen, a hat and a willingness to help. No experience is necessary. "There is no minimum time that people are required or expected to contribute," Sutton said. "If all you can spare is an hour, then come for an hour. If you want to stay until we close, that's up to you. If you can only come once in awhile, that's okay too. And if you want to bring a friend or two, they'll be more than welcome," he added.

We have a "fail-safe" method for planting seeds that is so easy "anyone can do it, and it's fun," Sutton said.

"The seeding method that we use to plant green beans, cucumbers, and pumpkins, involves a tool "which we invented" that is dragged behind a tractor. It makes perfectly spaced rows of the correct depth," he said.

"Everyone gets a 4-foot length of pipe," Sutton explained. "Then they walk down the row and drop a seed every few inches. It's that easy," he added. "You don't even have to bend over."

Some volunteers, like Bob Rohm, have been involved with the farm since its beginning. Rohm, a retired professor of art at the University of Rhode Island, lives in Charlestown and comes to help two or three times a week throughout the season.

"I love the farm, the activity, and the purpose," Rohm said. "What could possibly be better than raising food for the needy? It feeds my soul," he added.

Maureen Ryall has been a farm volunteer for three years and she brings her kids. "We go in the evenings because I'm a teacher and Saturday's are kind of busy," Ryall said. "I think it's a fabulous opportunity to get the kids to take part in community service. It teaches them the importance of contributing to the community and helping those who are less fortunate."

Ryall said that she has a black thumb so she thinks it's a positive way of teaching her children how things grow. "And the people are so nice, and good to the kids," she added. "Melissa is 10 and Danny is 7. Even when Danny was small, when we first started coming, everyone was very patient with him." Ryall went on to say that they have all made new friends and look forward to going "every chance we get."

Sue and Matt Clarke bring the entire family. "I went by myself when the farm first started," Sue Clarke said. "Then my son, Alex, asked if he could come along. I think he was nine at the time. Before long, my daughter Bethany, who is now 18, started coming, as did my husband Matt. They saw that Alex and I were having such a good time because we were so happy when we came home that they wanted to get involved," she added.

"When my nieces come down from Maine and my parents come to visit from North Kingstown, we bring them along and we all farm together," Clarke said.

Clarke also said that Alex, who is now a freshman in high school, even wrote an essay about the farming experience. Clarke is an early childhood teacher with the South County Community Action Head Start Program and her husband, Matt, is an insurance agent.

"We manage to raise about 12,000 pounds of food on a fouracre plot of land owned by cofounder, Peter Ceppi," Sutton said.

The farm distributes food to the Martin Luther King Center in Newport and the Storehouse in Peace Dale, which is a food pantry and meal site on Friday nights. They also contribute food to two church food pantries in Charlestown as well as the Jamestown meal site at the Grange Hall. The Pemberton Apartments, a residence for fixed income and retired seniors, also benefits from the farm. Additionally, food goes to St. Francis Chapel and City Ministry in Providence, and the Poverello Center on Hartford Avenue, a food kitchen and pantry in the heart of the city

"We have some very loyal people from all over the state who drive great distances every weekend to help. Some have been with us from day one," Sutton said. "We average about 150 volunteers a year. Some come every weekend. Others just come once in awhile. Anyway, we manage to plant and harvest 3.5 acres of vegetables every year."

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