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Growing Gardens Blossoms

Peter Paradise, St. Andrew’s Church member who started the Good News Garden at the church to donate entirely to RT’s agencies

Growing Gardens, Rachel’s Table’s newest food equity initiative that provides access to healthy food for all, is now in full swing. All of the gardens from our first year’s cohorts – Christina’s House, CSO’s Friends of the Homeless, Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens, and St. Andrews –are now providing plenty of vegetables for the residents of the various agencies or, in the case of the St. Andrews Church garden, have grown and donated hundreds of pounds of vegetables to the many organizations Rachel’s Table serves. This group will stay on for another year to build sustainable programming for continuation on their own.

The Growing Garden’s initiative had a terrific kick-off to our first season in April with a training event at Robinson Gardens in Springfield. The event was attended by over 30 representatives of our first-year agencies including both clientele/residents and staff, including Sister Anna Gilbert-Muhammad of NOFA, and Denise R. Jordan, ED of the Springfield Housing Authority. Short tips on soil treatment, irrigation and more were presented by our staff member Jay Levine as well as our lead trainers Sister Anna Muhammad and Beth Ward of Northeast Organic Farming. Agencies gathered to talk about how to engage their constituents in the planning and planting of the crops.

Since April’s training, each agency has developed their own way of working with their internal and external communities. Friends of the Homeless worked with our liaison Mallory Caplan to teach how to winter sow with elementary school students at the Rebecca Johnson Elementary School, as well as active-duty Air Force members from Westover Air Base to help get their raised beds in shape for the season including weeding, adding compost and building trellises. Marla Adelsberger, another Rachel’s Table liaison and Board member, helped Christina’s House families plant their garden as well as learn how to have fun with kale. Volunteers from St. Andrews Church and RT staff gathered to construct a fence around their garden plot.

We are now starting to work with our second-year agencies, Ronald McDonald House, Pioneer Valley Dream Center, The Gray House, and Seniority House, all located in Springfield. Currently, we are looking for volunteers to be liaisons to support two of our second-year agencies. As a liaison the volunteer would work with the agency and Rachel’s Table to help facilitate the planning and establishment of each garden. If you are interested in helping with Growing Gardens, especially if you have vegetable gardening experience, please contact Jay Levine at

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