Free Little Farmstand Sprouts at Franklin Park Conservatory
Similar in mission to a Little Free Library, a new take-what-you-need-for-free farmstand has opened on the grounds of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus of the Franklin Park Conservatory.
“We have bountiful vegetable gardens, and a free little farmstand seemed right in our wheelhouse,” says Jenny Pope, Director of Community Outreach and Education for the Franklin Park Conservatory.
The farmstand is located on the southwest corner of the Community Garden Campus and was erected on August 29, 2020. It brings fresh produce to an area that is a food desert and by the end of each day, 80% of what has been placed inside has been taken by those in need.
“Many of the food pantries are not within walking distance,” says Pope. “The Conservatory has taken produce to local food pantries for years. However, it occurred to us there was an immediate need in our neighborhood for fresh food, especially during the pandemic.”
Bringing the farmstand to fruition was a collaborative effort between Pope; Bill Dawson, Growing to Green Program Manager, Katie Speicher, Horticulturist, and Conservatory volunteer Keith Dufrane. Dufrane built the structure.
Beverly and Charles McNeal have had a community garden plot on the campus for seven years and were the first gardeners to contribute produce to the Free Little Farmstand. They shared tomatoes and kale.
“We have had so many tomatoes this year,” says Beverly. The harvest has been enough to share in the farmstand, to take home to eat, to share with their church pantry, family, and friends.
The couple live in Eastgate and enjoy a short walk to their garden plot. Growing up, both had gardening as a part of their family life. They still have a backyard garden, but when they heard about the community garden plots at the Franklin Park Conservatory, they jumped at the chance to have a plot.
“In addition to tomatoes and kale, we grow kale, Brussels sprouts, kalettes, kohlrabi, potatoes, parsley, sweet potatoes, collards, mustard greens, and ground cherries,” says Beverly.
Produce is harvested from the 4-acre edible landscape known as the Community Garden Campus and the Teen Corps Garden. In normal years, the youth that are participating in Teen Corps would sell the produce during the Franklin Park Conservatory’s Farmers Market. However, both the Teen Corps program and the Farmers Market were not held this year due to the pandemic. The harvest is instead going to stock the Free Little Farmstand. Each year the harvest is over 3,000 pounds.
Pope hopes that neighbors who have an abundant harvest will consider sharing the extra in the farmstand as well.
The Free Little Farmstand will be in operation seasonally each year, from May through October.
For more information, visit fpconservatory.org.