As part of our annual Earth Day program RMI continues to support local community gardens. This year’s program partner is the Sycamore Community Garden in Concord, NH. Read an article on the project, featured in The Citizen newspaper, below. We’re excited to hear from the gardeners later this summer as they Watch It Grow!
Sycamore Community Garden, Concord, New Hampshire (Credit FieldWork Photos)
Lending a helping hand
RMI of Holderness donates wood ash to Sycamore Community Garden
HOLDERNESS — For the last 20 years, Resource Management, Inc. has been devoted to the land and the people that they serve through providing organic residuals and recycling services. As part of an Earth Day program, the company will be donating wood ash to the Sycamore Community Garden in Concord, which helps refugees and people in financial hardship.
“Earth Day really is every day for us at RMI,” said RMI Office Manager Jessica Bunker, who oversees the Earth Day program. “Our whole mode of operations is through recycling and working with local resources like this.”
Bunker explained that the program is in its second year, with last year benefiting the Plymouth Community Garden and the Plymouth Elementary School. In the inaugural year, Bunker began working with the New Hampshire Farm to School Program, and also started looking for community gardens to work with. She utilized the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, which Bunker said has been a great tool for the program, as it has an interactive map of community gardens around the state.
This year, Bunker chose the Sycamore Community Garden, which is located at the New Hampshire Technical Institute. Bunker said that it not only stays within the company’s mantra of recycling by-products like wood ash, but will also feed those in need.
“I love this kind of story because we are not only helping locals through a food program, but also helping low-income refugees,” Bunker said. “These are people who really need this food.”
Bunker explained that Sycamore Community Garden has been successful for many years, with 138 garden plots, but it has more demand than it can supply. The plots are used by refugees from a variety of nations for a nominal fee. If they can’t pay, the money is found through the community.
“This gets them fresh, local produce without going to the store,” Bunker explained.
RMI would normally sell the wood ash to area farmers, but for this program, they will bring a smaller-sized load to Concord. Bunker said that they usually deliver wood ash in tons, but due to the size of the plot, the delivery will be much smaller. In this case, there will be 5 gallons of wood ash used per plot.
Bunker said that soil samples were taken to ensure the soil needs pertain to the wood ash provided. The wood ash is a by-product that comes from New Hampshire biomass carriers. She explained that essentially, wood chips are burned to create energy, and the by-product is the wood ash.
There are several power plants throughout the state that burn trees to generate electricity. Heat from the burning wood makes steam, and the steam turns turbines that create the electricity. After the wood is burned, there is a large amount of wood ash left over. It is similar to ash from wood stoves in homes.
This is a process that has been done for more than two decades, and the wood ash by-product is normally used by farmers to help grow their crops. It is used to improved topsoil for local gardens, as well as organic compost.
Bunker said that New Hampshire is notorious for having sandy soil that misses nutrients than many plants need, which is where the wood ash comes in. Farmers add this and other fertilizers to soil to allow plants to get the nutrients they would otherwise be without. It is also less expensive than other fertilizers, and farmers save about $40 per acre in comparison to commercial fertilizers or lime.
The wood ash being distributed is certified organic by the Organic Materials Review Institute, Bunker said. She said that this system is great for the local economy as well as the environment.
“It’s really a win-win for the community,” Bunker said.
Cheryl Bourassa, manager of the Sycamore Community Garden, said that the program benefits greatly by any contribution, such as the one by RMI.
“The basic premise behind this garden is making gardening available to low-income families,” Bourassa said. “In this case, which is pretty unique, it is open to any low-income resident, but many are refugees. It allows for a comfort in numbers with people who speak their language. It’s also a chance for them to grow vegetables that are part of their culture.”
Bourassa said that popular vegetables currently being grown are hot peppers, okra, eggplant, and tomatoes.
The Sycamore Community Garden Project was established in 2009, according to Bourassa. Prior to this, Concord’s only community garden was located off of Clinton Street, which is far from bus routes and without access to water.
Since 1999, Bourassa explained, there have been hundreds of refugee families that have moved to the state’s capital. Many had a history of agricultural work in their home lands as well as refugee camps. With them they brought a desire to grow their own food, but many cannot afford to purchase land. The community garden alleviates this problem for many, as it allows them to have economic independence as well as work to support their families during a time where jobs can be hard to find.
The garden plots are 13 feet by 27 feet, and cost about half of what is usually charged for community gardens. She said that the people using them are efficient and tend to use every inch. There is an on-site gazebo where tools are stored, which the gardeners share so they will not need to spend money on equipment, which is all obtained through donations. She said that water is drawn from a nearby oxbow pond, and churches, clubs, and nurseries are asked for donations of seeds and seedlings.
“This garden can be so important for these families’ well-being,” Bourassa said.
Bourassa said that some people have already started planting their vegetables, as some need more time to do so. On May 1, which coincides with a lottery for six plots at the garden, the wood ash will be delivered via truck by RMI and left for people, along with literature with agronomic recommendations. Bunker said the wood ash can either be used as a top dress, sprinkled on, or mixed into the soil.
RMI Senior Project Manager Charley Hanson explained that 20 years ago, he started the company, along with President Shelagh Connelly and Vice President Martin Riehs, with a desire to continue organic recycling throughout the region. Before the Earth Day program, RMI gave back to community gardens in places like Boscawen and Ashland. Hanson said that it was their goal to create a company that could give back to the region.
“We feel that it is important to give back,” Hanson said. “It fulfills the green initiative.”