It took two tries, but with the second snip of the giant scissors on Saturday, May 15, the multi-colored ribbon was cut and the River Roots Community Farm was officially open for growing! The day was a joyful end to an extremely busy few weeks, and an exciting beginning for this partnership between the AC Valley School District, the Oil Region Alliance, and the local community.
Once the ribbon was cut, guests were invited to sample the snacks on hand, including carrot cake cupcakes topped with miniature fondant vegetables, made and donated by Kya Pedi, while touring the grounds of the farm and envisioning all of the potential it holds. What is starting out as a living compass of raised beds and a woodland trail will become a fully-fledged market farm over the next several years, with opportunities for events and agribusiness education as well as a steady stream of fresh, delicious food flowing into our community.
Besides hard work, the week leading up to the ribbon-cutting had also been full of happy surprises, such as the offer from Gardenscape of a triaxle-load of garden soil, mixed especially for the community farm. While mechanical issues prevented the soil from arriving in time for the ribbon-cutting, it did arrive just a few days later, and has been layered on top of the topsoil donated by Penn’s Choice hemp farm, giving our seedlings the best possible start! We were also thrilled at an offer from Jennifer Stover, one of AC Valley’s amazing teachers, of funding and helping hands to get the orchard started. With her help, we’ve been able to source advanced fruit trees and mulch from C&A Trees in Clarion and we will be getting them in the ground this coming week. We were also delighted to see that our crowdfunding campaign saw a boost over the week, bringing our online donation total to nearly $700. Between the additional online gifts and a few new donations pledged by local businesses, we are hopeful we will be able to afford a new shed and water-collection system in the very near future!
Of course, now that the beds are built and filled with healthy soil, the real work is about to start! We are partnering with The Boys & Girls Club Along the Allegheny over the summer to give local kids a way to and from the garden and to help keep our plants thriving, and we are also accepting volunteers through SignUp.com. Links to our SignUp sheet are available through our website, acrivervalley.org, where you can volunteer to take care of the plants or continue the work on the woodland trail, and if you have a special skill you’d like to lend to the garden, just give a holler. We also have swag – River Roots Community Farm T-shirts, hats, and totes – printed locally by Amazing Stitches in Emlenton. All profits go straight to the development of the farm, so place your order at acrivervalley.org and support the growth of our local food system!
Selina Pedi is the Oil Region Alliance redevelopment manager. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.