Letter: Pine Hill Rd’s neighborhood garden supporting the hungry is a model use of open space

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

We are all struggling in one way or another to deal with the pandemic. However, there are some positive things that have happened in response to the pandemic. This is a Southborough story that hopefully can put a smile on some faces and be used as a model for other available open land in Southborough.

The Pine Hill Road neighborhood in Southborough controls an open space piece of land thru an I.R.C. 501(C)(3) organization called The Pine Hill Meadow Trust, Inc. The land is maintained by the Trust and is about 26 acres.

Al Hamilton and his wife Diana Wainrib (two of my neighbors) realized that the pandemic has increased food insecurity for many. Historically, our neighborhood has planted wildflowers on our open land. Al and Diana proposed to our organization that we use part of the land to grow healthy food for a Worcester based organization called Rachel’s table. The mission of Rachel’s Table is to distribute donated and specially purchased foods to agencies feeding hungry families and individuals in the greater Worcester area. Their milk fund also purchases milk for needy children.

Roll forward to now. As of today, our neighborhood land has produced and delivered 1643 pounds of produce including corn, beans, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, potatoes, and butternut squash. Diana and Al coordinated the program and spent tons of hours working in the garden. We had many enemies to fight off including coyotes who it turns out like more than meat. Al caught one coyote red handed on camera with a corn cob in its mouth.

We were still able to plant the wildflowers in the front part of the garden that fronts Pine Hill Road so that walkers can still enjoy the pretty flowers as they walk. And they can see their neighbors working in the back part of the garden.

I believe that our neighborhood’s care of this land is an excellent model for many other open spaces in Southborough – especially those attached to a neighborhood. My neighbors maintain and care for our land in a manner that Southborough does not have the resources and time for. It is a win win for all. I hope other neighborhoods that have open land will consider similar programs.

Kathy Cook
Graystone Way

[Editor’s Note: Kathy followed up with contributed photos below. (Click to enlarge.) She wrote:

I set up a game camera and found out our corn thieves were not a single animal but 2:

coyote with corncob

Later a deer came buy to snack on the remnants

Deer snacking at night

(I edited the contrast on her 2nd photo to make it easier to see.)]

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Michael Weishan
3 years ago

Kathy, I think this is a wonderful effort, and hats off to Al and Diana for their leadership. I have long advocated that we make our landscapes more productive and less ornamental (why plant a sterile flowering pear, for example, when you can plant a real pear that flowers and enjoy the pears?) and every little bit of produce you grow for yourself (or for others) reduces our dependence on extended food chains and reduces our carbon footprint. To that end, the Southborough Historical Society will be planting three of its historic Lyscom apple trees at the museum, with an eye to tending them and harvesting the fruit for the next door food bank. With a little thought, we can all do our part. Again, hats off to you!

Diana Wainrib
3 years ago

Kathy, thank you for sharing the story of the Pine Hill Meadow garden. We could not have done it without the hard work of neighbors in the Pine Hill area who seeded, weeded and harvested throughout the summer. We are delighted with the garden’s success and how it brought our neighborhood together during a pandemic summer.

3 years ago

This is wonderful.

Diane R.
3 years ago

Indeed, it is wonderful. And I’d like to point out that Al and his wife always contribute to the Boy Scouts Scouting for Food mission. When my son and I pick up the groceries, we are always overwhelmed by their generosity. It’s truly inspirational. Thank you, Al and Diana.

3 years ago

Kathy, such an uplifting story with the creative use of open space. Thank you for providing a positive model for the community to follow. Perhaps Victory gardens will gain favor as another use of open space.

Julie Connelly
3 years ago

This story is a bright spot during a time that is difficult for so many. A win for the farmers, the neighborhood, the recipients or the bounty, the environment, and even our local coyote population. For those who haven’t seen the garden, it’s enormous and beautiful, a true labor of love from the Pine Hill neighborhood that is worth a look.

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