Volunteers lend a hand at farm barn-raising
A group of more than 20 local carpenters and contractors spent their day off working at the Jamestown Community Farm on Saturday. The purpose of their effort was to build an equipment barn for the farm.
Farm Manager Bob Sutton described the origins and mission of the farm. “The Jamestown Community Farm was started in 2001 by a group of volunteers. The idea was to grow vegetables and give them to food banks, food pantries and meal sites throughout the state,” he said.
Now in its 11th year of operation, the community farm grows 14,000 to 15,000 pounds of vegetables per year. The food is donated and delivered to meal sites in Newport, Providence, West Warwick, Peace Dale and other locations, as well as to the senior housing in Jamestown.
Sutton made it clear that the story of the day was about the volunteers. “To me this is an incredibly exciting day. It means an awful lot to me that on a day that people would normally have off from work they chose to come out here and volunteer.”
“These are truly skilled people. They know how to build buildings. Everybody knows what they’re doing. It’s an incredible thing from the standpoint of getting the barn built,” Sutton continued.
The feeling was mutual as many of the volunteers praised the efforts of Sutton. Karen Weathers, a backhoe operator for KM Gladding Excavation said, “Bob Sutton’s a great guy. I would help him out with anything.”
Fred Brown, the Jamestown building inspector, was the team leader for the project. “I’m just here to help the volunteers who have done such a tremendous job up here at the farm. Anytime we can give Bob Sutton a hand, we will,” he said.
According to Brown, “This really brings a lot of awareness to these local Jamestown contractors about exactly what’s going on up here, which has been going on for several years now. During the course of my job I work with these contractors on a regular basis. I’m happy to see so many of them willing to donate a day out of their week to come here and work on a Saturday after working all week.”
Not all of the volunteers were construction professionals. John Recca, owner of the Narragansett Cafe, was on hand to help out. “All of these guys hang out at the bar, so I came down today to help out,” he said. “They all asked me to come, so here I am. I’m kind of a closet builder.”
“I’m not a good builder, I just do what I’m told,” he laughed.
The new barn was designed by Jim Estes of the Jamestown architectural firm of Estes/Twombly. The firm donated its services for the project. “I designed the barn. I worked with Bob and on the board of the community farm. It’s sort of a common effort to do it,” Estes said. “So I’m here to answer questions about the plans. I think the farm is great for Jamestown. I believe in what they’re doing.”
The barn will serve an important purpose for the farm, which presently stores equipment under a less than sturdy tarp structure. “If you were here when the wind was blowing or it’s raining very hard you would see that it’s relatively ineffective,” Sutton said. “So it’s to store equipment, primarily in the winter.”
The structure is divided into three rooms. On the east end is what is called a “clean room.” The center room is a mechanic’s bay and storage bay.
The room on the west side will be used to sell the farm’s products in the summer months. “We do sell vegetables to contribute to our budget to operate,” Sutton said. “We sell a certain amount of vegetables from a vegetable stand, and from that money we pay for fuel and all of the other expenses for the following year.”
The farm also houses 70 chickens. “We sell the eggs to people who want to buy them, but primarily we deliver those also, yearround, to the same distribution points that we have for the vegetables,” Sutton said. “The other thing that we raise is honey. We have 10 hives. That is exclusively a cash crop. We use that to sell the honey and put that in our funds.”
About half of the $3,000 to $4,000 annual budget for the Jamestown Community Farm comes from the sale of vegetables, eggs and honey, with the balance coming from donations. The donations come from individuals, as well as institutions.
Sutton made it a point to recognize Peter Ceppi, who owns the 17 acres on which the farm operates. “We have a lease with him that allows us to use his land, but he doesn’t charge us anything for the lease,” Sutton said. “We’re responsible for all 17 acres, but the farm within the deer fence is about four acres.”
Sutton was moved by the response to his call for volunteers. “This is a community farm, and it’s been a community effort from the beginning. I find it very exciting and I think it’s a real statement about Jamestown as a community.”
Volunteers who helped build the new barn include Fred Brown, Jim Estes, Tom Tiernan, Daniel Vieira, Harry Harpool, Joseph Scotti and John Vieira.
Also, John Recca, Chris Pike, Brian Durand, Spencer Clouatre, Caleb Clouatre, Ken Ronchie, Keith Ronchie, Bruce Dickinson and Dave Dolce.
Also, Rick Currie, John Bellion, Bill Cregan, Dave Brayman, Ramon Ibarlucea, Jim Mulcahey, Chuck Gladding, Karen Weathers, Joe Yoffa and Bill Marsh.