2013-07-18 / News

Garden dedicated to longtime supporter of community farm

By Roseanne Pawelec

A new raised-bed garden at the community farm was dedicated to Eleanor Gravdahl, a former Jamestown Garden Club president who organized fundraisers that benefited the farm. 
Photo by Roseanne pawelec A new raised-bed garden at the community farm was dedicated to Eleanor Gravdahl, a former Jamestown Garden Club president who organized fundraisers that benefited the farm. Photo by Roseanne pawelec Art met agriculture early in the evening last week at the Jamestown Community Farm as a colorful, raised-bed herb garden and bench were dedicated in memory of Jamestowner Eleanor Gravdahl.

Gravdahl, a longtime supporter of the Eldred Avenue farm, passed away last July at the age of 88.

“She loved giving back to the community,” said Barbara Gravdahl Trout, Eleanor’s daughter.

Trout was joined at the ceremony by friends and acquaintances of her late mother, and by Barbara’s siblings, Jeffrey Gravdahl and Nancy Gravdahl Sall, both from Pennsylvania.

“It makes me cry, and I’m totally happy at the same time,” said Trout. “The bench, the sentiment behind it, plus the beauty of it, is just phenomenal. She is with us and sitting on that bench, wanting to paint, loving the colors and loving the fact that it’s going back to the community.”

Funding for the memorial was provided by the Gravdahl family and the Jamestown Garden Club, where Eleanor had served as president. She often organized fundraisers for the farm.

Judy Knight, current president of the garden club, said Eleanor frequented the farm with a plein air group of fellow artists. Knight says Eleanor would have appreciated the painterly composition of the garden.

“All of us have said how wonderful these color combinations are,” Knight said. “Eleanor would have loved the contrasting colors.”

Noted Jamestown artist Evelyn Rhodes agreed.

“It’s lovely and it’s very welcoming,” Rhodes said. “I don’t think there is a person here who doesn’t want to walk right in between the raised beds. It’s got a lot of contrasting colors and textures. I can picture Eleanor sitting here because this was a favorite spot of hers.”

The garden was designed to be accessible, with plenty of space between the raised beds. “A person sitting in a wheelchair could pick herbs or weed the garden,” said Bob Sutton, farm manager. “Or just come through the garden and be a part of it that way.”

The Jamestown Community Farm each year provides almost 20,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to Rhode Island soup kitchens, churches and food pantries.

This year, Child & Family of Middletown will join the McAuley House in Providence, the House of Hope in Warwick and a small church in Peace Dale as a weekly beneficiaries of farm deliveries.

For 13 years, with only one exception (a paid intern this season), the Jamestown Community Farm has relied solely on the labor of volunteers, from planting to harvesting. The farm is a nonprofit organization and is located on land leased for $1 a year from property owner Peter Ceppi.

Volunteers of all ages are welcome at the farm. Sutton says it’s a good way for school-age children to earn community-service hours.

Elizabeth and Bob Miniutti have volunteered for the past two years.

“We used to come up here to the farm stand when they first started selling,” said Bob. “That was right after they built the building and it was fantastic.”

“We were actually kind of intrigued,” Elizabeth said.

According to Bob Miniutti, the couple decided to lend a hand because they felt “kind of guilty.”

“This is such a wonderful resource and we decided to come up and volunteer,” he said.

The Miniuttis say several of their neighbors also volunteer. They describe their experience at the farm as relaxing and fun.

Area students can often be found in the fields among the rows of vegetables. This year, students from private schools as well as North Kingstown High have joined the ranks.

Libby Lamantia attends La Salle Academy and Sam Ayvazian Hancock is a student at St. George’s School in Middletown. Both girls will enter the 11th grade in the fall. They’ve volunteered for each of the past three years.

“I think we’re planning on coming two nights every week,” said Sam. “As much as we can.”

According to Sutton, helping hands are always needed at the farm, May through October. To volunteer, he says it’s easy: Simply show up at the farm on Eldred Avenue on Tuesday or Thursday evenings between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., or on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. All ages are welcome, but children 10 and under should be accompanied by an adult.

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