Water with Help from the Sun

By Sally Miller

Sustainable Woodstock has installed its first solar powered pump which will provide water at the Billings Farm community garden site on old River Road. For the last eight years, gardeners have been using hand pumps to pull water from the Barnard Brook and then they hauled the water to their gardens. Thanks to a recent grant from Catamount Solar gardeners now have a water source right at the gardens.

Designed by Amos Post of Integrity Energy, the system operates completely unattended. The slow pump is powered by a single post mounted 100 watt, 12 volt solar panel and draws water from the brook to an open tank at the edge of the garden. Obviously the pump works when the sun is shining which is typically when the garden needs it. On cloudy days, the gardens need less water. A float in the tank regulates the flow. The pump was installed at the end of this growing season, but gardeners are already excited about the potential for next year.

Cassidy Metcalf, SW Community Garden coordinator and Billings Garden gardeners, Brian Aspell and James McCarthy show off the new solar pump at the garden.

Cassidy Metcalf, SW Community Garden coordinator and Billings Garden gardeners, Brian Aspell and James McCarthy show off the new solar pump at the garden.

The Five Percent For Community Fund is Catamount Solar’s Community Grants Program. A progressive company operating as a workers’ cooperative, Catamount Solar’s goals include the desire to motivate positive social change in the areas that they serve. Their grants support examples of successful, pro-active community change leading to more compassionate, livable and sustainable communities. Catamount Solar allocates 5% of its annual profit to support community and environmental programs and initiatives, and Sustainable Woodstock is proud to be a recipient of a 2016 grant.

This summer, for the eighth year, Sustainable Woodstock organized community gardens in the Woodstock area at three different locations. The allotment plots at our gardens are maintained by individuals with some group responsibilities allowing local residents who cannot have gardens at their homes the ability to grow their own food.

The community gardens were started by Anne Dean in 2009 and she helped us in the first years by establishing the organizational structure and writing guidelines and best practices. She continues to provide ongoing support to Woodstock’s network of community gardens through the permaculture garden at the North Universalist Chapel Society and her support of local food through the establishment and supervision of the Woodstock Winter Farmers’ Market.

Woodstock’s first community garden was created at King Farm and was a 30-foot-by-100-foot patch with room for 10 plots. Some of the current gardeners at King Farm have been tending their plots together since 2009. In the last eight years, the gardens have grown beyond King Farm into a network including plots in Pomfret and at Billings Farm. Over the years these gardens have served dozens of families and organizations. In summer of 2017 we had 16 families and one organization maintaining 34 plots at the Billings Farm garden.

The Chipper’s garden is located on Pomfret Road just north of the Pomfret Elementary School and is primarily gardened by Change the World Kids. The CTWKs plant for food justice which is the affirmation that everyone should have accessible, fresh, and affordable healthy food that is produced in a fair manner. The CTWKs plant their crops to support the Woodstock Food Shelf and to help fill their newly constructed root cellar. Their late harvest from the Chipper’s garden allows produce to be offered to patrons of the Woodstock Food Shelf year-round!

We want to thank Cassidy Metcalf who has coordinated the King Farm and Billings gardens for the last two years. She helped solve fencing problems at King Farm and established the compost system at the Billings garden. Besides providing ongoing support to gardeners and organizing garden get-togethers and workdays, this year Cassidy arranged for presentations from a seed-saver to discuss that process and a master gardener to offer gardening tips. These educational programs were open to the public and help strengthen our gardening community.

In addition to Catamount Solar and Integrity Energy we are very grateful to our community partners who make land available for our use – Chippers, Billings Farm and Museum and the Vermont Land Trust at the King Farm location. Their generosity allows many community members to have access to fresh, locally grown produce.

Just Do One Thing: Make plans to join a community garden next summer.

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