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Sanbornton Food Pantry growing greens for locals in community-wide project


March 31, 2010
SANBORNTON — While food pantries around the state are looking for ways to meet the needs of local residents in a struggling economy, Sanbornton has decided to make theirs a green endeavor as Town Pantry volunteer and Master Gardener Karen Ober pools her talents and her resources to create a community garden.

The garden will provide fresh food for families the pantry serves as well as seniors interested in helping with the project.

Ober approached her fellow master gardeners about the idea of starting a Community Garden to benefit the pantry. Proposing to use a plot of town-owned land behind the Sanbornton Library, eight gardeners jumped on board. Master gardeners typically look for community projects that "educate and facilitate," Ober said, leaving residents to take charge once everything is in place.

"This was just a great project that meets all the objectives of master gardeners," Ober said.

Since receiving approval from the Board of Selectmen to use the land, the group has been busy hunting for seeds and other items and reaching out to local businesses and resources for all the needs of a raised bed garden project. Ober said a local sawmill will be used to get lumber for the raised beds, and Agway has been assisting the group by ordering seeds for them.

They will be using a gardening format called Square Foot gardening, which provides for maximum utilization of space and helps prevent weeds from growing.

"We wanted to use that format along with companion gardening, which will help us get the most from our gardens," Ober said. T

he plants will fill the beds and leave little room for the weeds, keeping maintenance as minimal as possible. They plan on doing succession gardening as well, where plants are grown for early harvest then replaced by other varieties of vegetables later in the growing season. The hope, Ober said, is to keep the garden growing and productive all spring, summer and as late into the fall as possible.

Money in part for the project has been donated by the Belknap County UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners from the proceeds of their annual plant sale. The Sanbornton Public Library has joined in by offering both watering capabilities from the building and a room for programs on gardening, which will include topics like "Square Foot Gardening and Companion Gardening" by the master gardeners and "Greens Throughout the Summer" by organic Gardener Charlie Burke. There will also be a session dedicated to local youth, titled "Summer in the Garden," and a senior program, "Afternoon Tea Reminiscences of Summer Gardens of Old."

"We'll invite all the seniors to join us for tea where they can relax and talk about gardens from their past and just have a nice afternoon," Ober said.

Seniors who would like to help with the project are invited to come and help with watering and weeding, or just watch the progress of the gardens. They will also be able to take fresh vegetables home for their own consumption if they choose.

Ober is hoping to include as many people as possible in this endeavor. She has invited local Scouts to build the raised beds and hopes to obtain some plants from students of the Voc-Ag program at Winnisquam Regional High School.

Bill and Karen Tobin have also offered to clear an old roadway beside the Old Town Hall so there will be better access to the plot of land where the garden will be located.

"With all of this, we look forward to having fresh, locally grown vegetables available for seniors and families at the Food Pantry," she said.

An informal survey of those using the pantry showed a lot of enthusiasm for the project, with some families volunteering their time to help with the gardens.

Target dates are mid-April for construction of the raised beds, with peas and other "cold crops" being planted in early May. A large planting of vegetables will take place at the end of May as the growing season officially gets underway.

Anyone who would like more information on the Sanbornton Community Garden Project is asked to contact Karen Ober at 286-9995 or Melanie Van Tassel at 393-8450. Updates on the progress of this project and the upcoming programs at the library will soon be available on the Town Web site or through the garden's host Web page, which will be located at www.kathimitchell.com/mgsgarden/index.htm. Participation by local residents is greatly encouraged and donations for the garden and food pantry are welcomed.

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