Middlesex Community College celebrated the formal opening of its spacious community gardens on Friday afternoon, June 16 with a walk-through, some brief speeches, and a barbecue.
The biggest feature? The ripe strawberries, ready for eating right off the stems.
There are more than 20 active eight-by-eight garden plots on the west side of the main campus parking lot, not far from Springs Road. The parcels are about evenly divided among students, faculty and staff, and Bedford residents. There is irrigation available, and deer have yet to penetrate the eight-foot fence.
Lisa Lobel, environmental science professor and advisor to the Sustainability Club, noted that the group launched the project in 2011. Standing at the main gate to the gardens, she declared that, after weathering the pandemic, “This is reborn,” to applause and cheers from about two dozen students, staff members, and guests.
Middlesex President Phil Sisson stood alongside her, declaring, “Students have been a driving force behind this wonderful community project.”
Lobel noted that with little activity on campus during the better part of two years of pandemic measures, the gardens “fell into disrepair.” Chris Fioro, the college’s director of data analytics, helped drive the recovery. He has been involved with the day-to-day management of the gardens for many years, and “really makes it all happen,” Lobel said.
She urged student and staff members to “come out and enjoy this healthy space. We want to keep things going.”
Nicole Antonoff, who with Notfaza Karim is a student leader of the Sustainability Club, said that in addition to the individual plots, they hope to generate at least 750 pounds of produce during the summer along the perimeter, targeted for the college food bank and the Middlesex Valley Food Bank in Lowell.
Also joining the opening event were State Rep. Kenneth Gordon, Bopha Malone, Select Board chair, college Provost Dr. Arlene Rodriguez, and Patrick Cook, vice president of administration.
A few residents who secured garden plots also attended. That arrangement began in 2018 when the Selectmen’s Community Gardens Study Committee reached out to college officials and learned of the community gardens. A cooperative venture followed.
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