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Thursday, October 22, 2009

More on the Pachamama Farm

The last we heard, Fathers Fern Goselin and John Hudert had both been laid up in the hospital with various medical issues. Well, thanks be to God, they are all better and back in business on the Pachamama farm, a one-acre community garden located on the north side of Maryknoll's property. The purpose of the farm (the name means "Earth Mother" in Quechua) is to provide fresh produce to seven local food pantries. Anything extra is offered to our employees at St. Teresa's Residence. About ten volunteers, mostly senior citizens and retirees, plant, weed, water and harvest. Alas, times being what they are, no children or even college students are permitted to volunteer, unless accompanied by their parents.

John and Fern set the mood for today's Food for Thought presentation by singing "One Day at a Time" (If the desired mood was hillbilly religious rock, they succeeded.)

Goselin was bought up on a dairy farm in Vermont, so he has farming in his blood. When he first returned from the missions, 60 acres of Maryknoll's 93 acres land were unusable, so with the help of a neighboring farmer with a tractor, he cleared 20 acres of land.

He discovered all kinds of abandoned plows and farm equipment in our dump and this offended both his missioner's and farmer's background, so he sought ways to put it to use. The original tractor, still in use and one of four, was driven by Fr. Charlie Hugelmeyer when he was a seminarian back in the Middle Ages.

Maryknoll Affiliate Mary Murphy came up with the original idea of planting a garden and convinced Fr. Dick Callahan to make the initial investment of $6,000 for electric fencing (to keep out the deer, raccoons and other fauna) and equipment.

In the earlier years (the farm started ten years ago) the farm produced 3,000 pounds. The following year 6,000. Then 9 and 12,000 respectively. Last year they harvested 25,000 pounds of vegetables, in addition to apples.

A blight followed all the rain this year, so the tomato crop was a disappointment. Even so, to date 17,000 pounds of produce have been harvested with more to come. The only fertilizer the farm uses is horse manure donated from local stables. Talk about re-cycling.

In addition to tomatoes, the Pachamama Farm grows three kinds of squash, eggplant, beets, cabbages, peppers, beans, cucumbers, turnips, leeks and garlic. A local beekeeper maintains four hives nearby and gives part of the honey to Hudert.

A new barn was erected last month to store the tractors and other machinery and equipment. The residents of St. Teresa's donated more than $10,000 of the $15,000 cost of the barn. Harvesting starts as early as May and goes through November.

Catholic New York and Catholic News Service, among other local publications, have carried stories about the Pachamama Farm. It's just one example of good stewardship.

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