Franklin Countys First News

Community garden plans in process

FARMINGTON - When Arleen Masselli talks about a community garden she isn't just talking about handing off some fresh cukes or ripe tomatoes to people. She calls her idea a community garden "with a twist" and the vision is a layered one.

"My first thought is how do we provide food for people who fall through the cracks?" Masselli said.

She went on to explain who those people might be- maybe a local residents who doesn't feel comfortable showing up at a food pantry, or someone who is seemingly above the income threshold, but still can't keep food on their table due to high medical bills or other expenses.

"A community garden with no qualifying income level...I don't know how it will all work, but it's a great idea," she said.

Figuring out how to piece it all together is where Masselli is seeking help. The professional baker and farmer has already hosted several brainstorming meetings on the subject and will be coordinating an official planning meeting this coming Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Knowlton Corner Farm- 341 Knowlton Corner Road. The meeting is open to the public and will be live streamed on the Knowlton Corner Farm Facebook page. Masselli said she has been impressed at the amount of interest in the project and hopes to collaborate with several local organizations such as WorkFirst, United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, the Greater Franklin Food Council and Skowhegan Savings Bank.

Some of the ideas generated so far include a barter system (weed for an hour, bring home a basket of green beans), and teaming up with mental health professionals to provide a relaxing, therapeutic environment for meeting with clients. One idea that has stemmed off into its own planning committee is how to approach the amount of food waste at local pantries.

"How do we take that waste and turn it into something useable?" Masselli said.

For example, if a pantry receives a large donation of fresh tomatoes on a Thursday afternoon, just before closing time, and they don't reopen until Monday or Tuesday, those tomatoes are likely to go bad before getting handed out. Masselli imagines taking those tomatoes and turning them into pasta sauce to be canned and redistributed in a more useable, shelf-stable way.

Masselli has already tried her hand at this idea, turning a large donation of stale bread into breadcrumbs and croutons.

A meeting to address local food waste will be held the following Thursday, March 5 at 4:30 at Knowlton Corner Farm.

For more information, or to RSVP to either of the meetings, call Arleen Masselli at 778-6520.

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2 Responses »

  1. So glad that someone else sees the need for the food pantry donations utilized. I take the fruit, blueberries, strawberries etc. and turn them into jam for the people in the neighborhood. We have eggs and a large garden that we put the extra out for the people. They are proud and would not take produce for free so we put out a donation jar and that seems to help them feel as if its not a handout . I wish I lived closer , I would help in any way I could. Good Luck

  2. Very good idea Arlene, I will brainstorm to see if I can help.