By Jim Meinhold
All successful nonprofit organizations count on a strong volunteer network to drive their activities in support of their missions. In our first year, we've made extraordinary progress in enlisting the support of organizations and individuals, establishing a strong foundation on which to build.
It's because of our volunteers that we've been able to build our Community Gardens and High Tunnel, install basic utilities, and embark on building restoration. But there are many more projects to be undertaken in the next few years, including installation of a sewer line, the construction of recreational trails and a Children's Greenhouse and Gardens, and the launch of educational and farmer training programs. For all of these, we'll rely critically on our corps of volunteers. While some tasks will require specific skill sets, most will merely require a willingness to help.
Each month, we'll report here on our progress, spotlighting our volunteers' achievements and announcing volunteer opportunities. This month we spotlight our Community Gardens, which dozens of volunteers started building in June and have worked through the summer toward completing. We now have in place 55 raised and in-ground beds with connecting walkways and irrigation. We're using four of these beds to support our educational programs and grow produce for local food pantries.
The Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York have been particularly active, painting rock markers, creating scarecrows, planting sunflowers, and growing food for the Economic Opportunity Council and Franklin Community Center. Using such natural materials as bark, stones, and twigs, a dozen scouts now are building houses for a "fairy village" installation that will be exhibited in our Pitney Meadows Art Exhibit Saturday, Sept. 16.
Volunteers employed by the Naval Support Unit have been especially helpful, coming weekly to the farm to do much of the heavy lifting required in laying out the raised beds and building the gravel walkways. Thanks to our volunteers, we've been able also to offer free art classes for children and programs on composting and growing herbs and tomatoes. Others in the community have stepped forward to donate flowers and other plants, tools, donations, seeds, and time. Volunteers from the Waldorf School will join us in the gardens this fall.
More needs to be done! This fall, we'll be looking to our volunteers for help in completing the garden shed inside and out, which requires sealing the building, finishing the application of siding, and configuring the interior space to accommodate gardeners and their tools.
We aim also to complete construction of a pergola that will be the center of the Community Gardens, providing chairs and tables in a shady place where anyone in the community who wishes to experience the tranquility of the gardens may meet, rest, and relax.
There's no better way to keep up with what's happening in the gardens than by following Garden Director Natalie Walsh’s blog. Since last spring, Natalie has been reporting on how our volunteers have been transforming the gardens from a grassy field to a flourishing array of raised beds, sunflower borders, in-ground plots and fairy gardens. On her blog, you can follow the creative process and see what's coming next for the gardens.
If you'd like to be among those volunteers or others who are helping to create the future of Pitney Meadows, I hope you'll join us. Connect with us here.
A member of the Pitney Meadows Board of Directors, Volunteer Coordinator Jim Meinhold came to Saratoga Springs in 2014 from Wilton, Conn., where he was a member of the board of directors of Ambler Farm and chair of its agriculture committee.