Accessible Garden

It started with a query from shareholders Ken Johnston and Theresa Vincent. They wondered if it might be possible to create an area in the garden that could be accessible to their daughter, Patricia. They envisioned a space that could offer better access for everyone who comes to the farm - the shareholder who has just had knee surgery, parents with children in strollers, and those who find the bumpy terrain of the farm difficult to maneuver

Brookfield Farm staff said, "Great idea! That front garden has been asking for a focus for years." And the idea did what happens at Brookfield Farm, it grew.

Once that one flower was planted the insects came. A homeschool group, led by shareholder Pam Victor, heard about the idea and volunteered to do the initial work of moving plants, clearing out garden beds, and starting some vertical plantings to begin making the space for an accessible garden. Andy Bristol, from Stavros Center for Independent Living, came out and offered many excellent suggestions for increasing accessibility by making alterations to our picnic tables, bathroom and farm shop.
Shareholder Gail Voisin, who runs a summer camp, offered to care for the garden this summer if the project came to fruition. Shareholder Margot McMahon led us to several helpful designs that were built at her co-housing community. Erika Zekos, neighbor and shareholder, volunteered her time and expertise and made a beautiful design drawing with the ideas gathered. Al, from Karl's Excavating, volunteered his labor and machinery to build the pathway through the garden. Hope Davis, from The Farmstead in Leverett, offered the farm a generous discount on cedar mortise and tenon raised beds. Theresa and Ken continued to bring inspiration to the project and connected with the Lemelson Center at Hampshire College. Those insects did an expert job of pollinating, May brought plenty of rain and now with the coming of a little warmth the seeds of that flower are ready for planting.

The Accessible garden has a five foot wide, easily traversed path, that goes from the greenhouse out to the center bed of the front garden. The path continues down the garden bed and loop around it back to the intitial pathway, forming a loop through the heart of the garden. Inside the loop there is a series of raised beds at varying heights to meet a variety of accessibility needs.

On each side of the central bed there are garden beds that utilize "vertical planting." The idea is to create a vertical spread of plants that are easily accessible to all which may include trellised beans or tomatoes, corn, or tall flowers. The garden also includes several barrel planters with an array of herbs that can easily be gathered.

The longer range vision could expand on the initial physical structures - perhaps planting a sampling of everything grown on the farm so that those who cannot get out to the distant fields could experience a microcosm of what's out there. Or maybe we could create a "sensory garden" where careful attention would be given to color, sound, smell and texture. For now, the garden is a very special place providing color, beauty, respite and easy access for everyone.

For more information on Accessible Gardens and Gardening check out this great resource

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