When the Organic Garden Club (OGC) first planted its garden this summer the club members had a lot of work to do. The organization had fallen to the wayside since its inception in 2003, and the garden, which is located on Spinney Lane in Durham, had been abandoned and overgrown with weeds.
“It was a mess,” OGC business manager Kat Bemis said. “There was a couch in the barn and someone had been living there. It was so bad.”
Looking at the garden now, you wouldn’t believe the club had such a rocky beginning. The space has thrived over the summer and the club has flourished.
“We’re killing it,” OGC President Francesca Genello said.
Genello is not over exaggerating. This summer the members of OGC spent 20-40 hours a week caring for their garden, which is a little less than two acres. They planted numerous vegetables including everything from carrots and tomatoes to kale and spaghetti squash, pulled weeds and watered the crops regularly.
Their hard work paid off. Over the summer OGC sold their produce at three different local farmers’ markets, making over $1,000, which is double what they had previously projected. The OGC had more produce than they knew what to do with and everything they didn’t sell at the market was donated to the Waysmeet Center and Cornucopia Food Pantry on 15 Mill Road in Durham.
This isn’t the only profound effect the OGC has had on the community. The club is dedicated to working locally and giving back to the public. They are teaching the importance of sustainability and hope to inspire people to follow in their footsteps.
The OGC is an intimate club, filled with hard working, dedicated members who are passionate about their work, but it’s not all work and no play.
“It’s a chill group of people,” Bemis said. “It’s fun to be around but it’s not intense and it’s very inclusive.”
“If you can’t make a meeting, you’re not going to be penalized or kicked out,” Genello said on the laid back attitude of the club. “OGC is a club that you can make your own.”
Both Genello and Bemis talked about how fulfilling it is to see the immediate effects of all their hard work with the garden and how it’s had such a positive impact on the local community.
“This is bigger than me,” Bemis said. “You get to go back to your roots. Literally.”
Under OGC’s care the garden has prospered. Bemis and Genello spoke ardently about how beautiful the garden has become – especially at sunset.
“It’s in Durham and it’s on campus but it’s a hidden gem,” Bemis said. “It was my happy place this summer.”
“It’s a little oasis,” Genello agreed, urging people to stop by and take a look.
Even with the summer season coming to an end, the OGC has no intention of slowing down. While the planting may be done for the season, the club is still in full swing. Every second Friday of the month the OGC helps cook a community dinner at the Waysmeet Center, using their own fresh, organic produce. These dinners cater to students, faculty and all community residents.
The OGC also holds pot lucks, which are described by Bemis as big “hangout eats.” The club teaches its members how to grow, harvest and cook their own food. Volunteers in the group work on the farm, assist with the community dinners and help wherever else they can.
“The club is a great benefit to the community and the school,” Bemis said in reference to the club’s future.
Both seniors, Bemis and Genello are looking for young members to join the OGC who are as passionate about the work as they are.
“I just wanna see it either as good as where we left it or better,” Genello said.
“We brought it up from nothing. It was so bad,” Bemis said. “It has so much potential. I mean, [we’re] given money to plant organic food. It’s great.”
The OGC will be cooking for the next community dinner at the Waysmeet Center on Friday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. They will also host a Farm Jam at the garden on Thursday, October 20 at 5:30 p.m., that will feature live music, a bonfire and fresh vegetables. To contact the Organic Gardening Club you can email Francesca Genello at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also like the UNH Organic Gardening Club on Facebook and follow them on Instagram @ogcunh.