Tuesday, December 12, 2017
There’s More Blooming at Bloom Community Farm Than Meets the Eye
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Abbie Harris Mallory says she has enjoyed working with the volunteers, who range from beginners to longtime gardeners who have taught her a few things about gardening.
 
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

It’s difficult to figure out what’s seen the most growth at Bloom Community Farm this summer—the veggies or the people who till them.

The half-acre community farm, which sits in Hailey’s Quigley Canyon, resembles a living piece of artwork with row upon row of robust strawberry plants next to orange marigolds.

Tomato plants bound for sandwiches and pasta sauce touch the top of the greenhouse, which boasts the aromatic scent of big luscious basil plants.

 
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“Did you know you can’t pick eggplant without gloves because of the spikes on them?” asks Lynea Petty.
 

Maroon-colored amaranth towers over large heads of cabbage, big bold beets beginning to edge their way out of the ground, onions the size of baseballs and even a couple artichoke plants tucked in the middle of leaves that stretch out across the ground.

The soil is incredibly rich, said gardener Abbie Harris Mallory, thanks to the tender loving care given it by Carey farmer John Saili, who kept it under a cover crop for years.

But the farm has also proved fertile ground for a great community experiment  in growing nutritious vegetables for those who can’t afford them while providing a way for community to come together to enjoy one another’s company while learning about gardening and nutrition.

“It’s been beautiful coming together of locals from all walks of life connecting over the fun and fulfillment of planting and harvesting good food,” said Kristin McMahon, development director for The Hunger Coalition, one of the organizations that reaps the benefits of the farm.

 
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Lisa Pettit and Janet Chappell cart away the weeds they pulled in the greenhouse.
 

The farm, leased from developer Dave Hennessy for a dollar a year, has partnered with numerous organizations to provide educational and therapeutic programs.

Some people volunteer to pull weeds in exchange for vegetables to stretch their food budget. Novice gardeners come in hopes of learning how to cultivate their own veggies. Mom and Dads have brought their children to teach them about volunteering on behalf of others as they’ve picked vegetables destined for The Hunger Coalition’s mobile food bank. Church groups and high school kids and have come out to perform community service.

St. Luke’s, Blaine County Recreation District and 4-H have partnered to teach youngsters how to grow and prepare the vegetables, in between swim outings at BCRD’s pool.

NAMI and Higher Ground hope to schedule work dates in the garden in September, mindful of the therapeutic benefits of gardening. And farm production manager Lynea Petty expects to see students from botany classes visit the farm once school starts.

 
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The array of fruits and vegetables at Bloom Community Farm provide exceptional nutrients using organic methods, said Lynea Petty.
 

“What’s fun has been to watch how fast the kids take to it,” she said. “As soon as they touch a plant, they own it. They want to try it, cook it. They start talking about seeing how many new things they can try. Another cool thing is the social aspect of it. We have people learning to garden and we have people who are passionate about gardening but don’t have a place where they can garden.”

About 120 volunteers have planted and harvested food at Bloom Farm and its sister garden—The Hope Garden outside the old Blaine County Courthouse—this summer.

They’ve harvested a literal ton of food so far and Petty predicts they’ll harvest another ton by the time the season ends.

A quarter of the harvest has gone to the Hunger Coalition’s Mobile Food Bank. Another quarter has gone to a new mobile market that sells deeply discounted veggies to senior communities in Hailey and Carey. And about 30 percent has gone home with volunteers.

 
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Haylee and Lisa Pettit weigh the vegetables they get in payment for volunteering.
 

The remaining 20 percent has been used for a program that teaches teen interns how to plant, harvest and prepare the vegetables, while learning business skills selling them.

“I’m excited how many people come back more than once,” said Petty. “We have at least 10 regulars.”

Among those regulars is Janet Chappell. She sought assistance from The Hunger Coalition—one of Bloom Farm’s partners-- while taking care of her ill father.

“I have a job but driving from state to state taking care of my father stretched my resources thin—I was literally living on hot dogs,” she said. “It was so nice to be able to get some fresh vegetables from the Hope Garden—I lost 25 pounds because I was eating better food.”

Chappell takes an early morning lunch break to work in the garden—she has racked up 20 hours since July and she plans on continuing until they close. For her efforts, she took home two pounds of veggies early in the season when the food being harvested consisted of lettuce, kale, chard and other greens. Now that heavier crops like squash are coming on, she gets to take home seven pounds of food for every hour of work.

“It’s nice to be able to take some vegetables home in exchange for my work. But it’s also nice to give back. And it’s nice to get outside,” she said.

Haylee Pettit, a college student home for the summer, accompanied her mother Lisa to work in the garden this past week.

“My mother made a dish last week using the spinach she brought home from the garden and it was really good,” said Haylee.

“It’s fun volunteering in the garden,” said Lisa Pettit. “I can tell the difference between these vegetables and the store-bought ones. The vegetables I get here last longer in the refrigerator.”

A number of those who come out are looking to find tips for own garden. They’re curious about Bloom Farm’s irrigation methods. They want to know how to grow tomatoes or peppers in the high-altitude desert in which they live. They want to know what to do about grasshoppers that are having a heyday in some gardens around the valley.

Anne Tokareff was among the curious who showed up last Wednesday.

“I was just wanting to see what’s here,” she said. “I can’t grow much where I live in Indian Creek so maybe I can learn something from them.”

VOLUNTEERING FOR VEGGIES

You can volunteer at Bloom Community Farm in Hailey’s Quigley Canyon at the end of Fox Acres Road from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays through September. October hours are 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays.

Volunteer at The Hope Garden, 1st Avenue and Walnut Street in Hailey, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Mondays and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays through August. Hours change to 8:30 to 10 a.m. Mondays and 4:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays during September and October.

OPEN HOUSE

Celebrate the harvest on Sept. 13 as Bloom Community Farm holds a Farm Appreciation Party.

The party will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13. There’ll be refreshments, tours and live music.

 

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