When Michael Stratton bought the house next door to his Oakley residence as a rental investment, he envisioned transforming part of its front yard, which faces busy Fairview Road, into a community footpath and garden. Then COVID-19 happened.
“Originally, we were going to do raised beds and planter boxes, and anybody who’s interested can show up and pool resources,” Stratton says. “It was going to be a focal point of community more than anything. But when this virus hit, we said, ‘Let’s reevaluate that and think about how we can try to make an impact on the hunger situation that we’re going to be facing.’”
So Stratton moved the project, dubbed the Fairview Road Resilience Garden, to the property’s sunny backyard, with the plan of producing as much food as possible to support the community. Since late March, he, his wife, Amanda, and a small, hardworking steering committee have managed to transform a 4,000-square-foot grassy field into 15 neat garden beds, which in mid-April were already speckled with green sprouts of onions, potatoes, kale, chard and more.
“We’re really focused on growing high-producing, high-yielding options, things that can be turned into meals easily once we take them to the food pantry,” Stratton says.
Another component under development for the initiative is a mutual aid group that will enlist neighborhood volunteers to make and freeze batches of soup to be included with medication and other items in “Miracle Boxes” that can be distributed to community members who are ill or otherwise in need.
“We’re not going to be able to solve all the problems or issues, but I think the secondary goal, beyond just giving food away, is creating a model that people in other neighborhoods can latch onto,” says Stratton. “If anything, it just allows people to know that this is possible with very few resources and just a few people who say, ‘We can do this.’”