By Barbara Clark, The Barnstable Patriot

Sitting in the quiet, spacious old barn at Meetinghouse Farm, looking out at grassy slopes, garden sunshine and a greenhouse filled with growing plants, it’s easy to forget we’ve just been through a year of dislocation and uncertainty.

This feeling of being in another, more pleasant universe persists during a relaxed conversation with Judy Desrochers, president of Meetinghouse Farm, as various and sundry volunteers and gardeners stop in to say “hello” on the way to their work destinations on this lovely spring day.

“Seeding Queen” Diane Mulligan at work transplanting zinnia seedlings in the greenhouse at Meetinghouse Farm (Barbara Clark photo)“

Programs and activities at the farm are once again resuming after the “time-out” of a pandemic year, with the farm’s big fundraiser plant sale scheduledfor May 15, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Desrochers called the event a “Garden Potpourri,” because of the variety of items that will be available that day.

First and foremost, she said, will be more than 25 varieties of tomato plants, a big feature of the event each year. All the plants on sale started their lives in the greenhouse at the farm.

Vegetable plants will be up for sale, as well as our favorite colorful flowers such as zinnias, sunflowers and nasturtiums, with some baskets and terrariums available.

Also on sale will be some new creations: hand-crafted glass and china garden ornaments that resemble giant blooms, cleverly made using cast-off china, cut glass plates and other ornamental glassware that once might’ve sat on a table holding petit-fours or fancy desserts.

On the farm activities menu, Caleigh Carroll will resume her popular 9 a.m. Saturday Yoga classes, beginning on June 5.

Also in June, recyclers can drop their goods at the special redeemables trailer at the Barnstable Transfer Station, where proceeds that month will benefit Meetinghouse Farm. Other June activities will include the farm’s annual Solstice celebration on June 20 (6 p.m.) and a Whelden Library puppet show on June 30 (4 p.m.) Plein air painters will create new works at the farm during one day each in June and July.

After taking a walk through the sunny, warm greenhouse, where board member Diane Mulligan was transplanting young zinnias into larger pots, a visit seemed in order to the community gardens, where the day was fine for a burn of collected branches and debris. Volunteers at the scene were cheerfully operating various machinery that transported the brush to a healthy bonfire that was under way.

Cindy Olotka gets a jump on spring, watering the row of potatoes she just planted at the farm (Barbara Clark photo)

Lone farmer Cindy Olotka was busy planting a row of potatoes in her newly turned garden plot, in the area where a total of 30 individual gardens will soon be up and growing.

A wooded area below the community garden is planned as the site for what Desrochers described as a woodland labyrinth that the farm calls a setting where “individuals and groups [can] walk for meditation and self-reflection.” The circular area that will welcome walkers has been laid out, preparing for the underlying base that will support paving “stones” that guide walkers through a classical pattern known as a 7 circuit labyrinth. Desrochers said she hopes the “spiritual destination” may be completed by the end of this summer.

Although last year’s pandemic slowed activities and fundraising efforts at the farm, Desrochers said there was a definite silver lining. It “gave us time to work on on-site projects,” including the new four-season garden modeled on the designs of Dutch landscaper Piet Oudolf, which maintain a “naturalistic appearance” all year long.

More than just allowing attention to projects, she said, the slower pace “allowed time for the farm to reflect on our goals ... and ... be productive in a different way.”

Joe Leary (left) and John Lynch head out to load up another barrow-full of brush. (Barbara Clark photo)

Staff and volunteers realized, she said, “just how valuable the farm was to the community. ... It stayed relevant during the COVID year ... for gardeners and walkers alike.”Staff and volunteers realized, she said, “just how valuable the farm was to the community. ... It stayed relevant during the COVID year ... for gardeners and walkers alike.”

Desrochers said they got repeated feedback on how important “being in nature was” for people during the pandemic, where pastimes at the farm such as walking the library’s outdoor Book Path, tending a garden or taking a quiet nature walk reinforced for many “the joy of being in the outdoors” during a difficult year.

The “down” time at the farm reinforced the staff’s ongoing feeling “that what we were doing was a good direction for us – continuing to operate the farm in an intentional way,” she said. "We were able “to let go of the idea that we (needed to) ramp up ... or expand in some way.”With people beginning to visit again, she added, it feels as if “we’re more free and safe” as activities start up again.

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