In early 2008, WestSide Farm Project began as a grassroots effort within the Westside neighborhood when Thom Pecoraro, a local property owner and Founding Director, proposed an idea to develop community gardens to the Westside Neighborhood Initiative Steering Committee. Pecoraro’s vision was to transform neighborhood vacant lots into productive green space for community interaction centered on organic food production. With the Steering Committee’s endorsement, Pecoraro received approval from the Pittsfield City Council to use a vacant city-owned lot on Robbins Street for the purpose of developing a small, mid-season garden. Pecoraro, as Founding Director, named the project “WestSide Farm Project.”
By July 2008, the garden was planted. Also in 2008, an environmental educator hosted weekly children’s workshops at the garden. In 2009, the first full season, over 500 pounds of vegetables were grown in this garden and donated to community food sites. WestSide Farm Project scheduled “open hours” after the end of the school day for youth participation.
In May 2009, WestSide Farm Project held its first “Spring Kick Off” which was attended by approximately 100 members of the community. The entire budget for the 2009 calendar year was $2000. WestSide Farm Project had no paid staff or contractors.
In early 2010, with significant input and approval from the Westside Initiative Gardens Subcommittee, WestSide Farm Project set the bar to expand its cultivated space to three sites, adding a privately owned lot on Linden Avenue and the lot at Conte School — with all three lots totaling over 9,000 square feet. 2010 proved to be a successful year for WestSide Farm Project. Over 3,000 pounds of vegetables, over six times the previous year’s production, were grown in the three gardens.
The Westside Farm Project was created as a response to need within the Westside neighborhood, which continues to struggle with access issues and crime. We hope to continue growing this project, from the gardens up.