Franklin Farm goals: barn repairs, eco-friendly updates

Franklin Farm goals: barn repairs, eco-friendly updates

Franklin Farm, on Abbott Run Valley Road in Cumberland, will soon be back in action for a busy 2020 growing season.

CUMBERLAND – Among their goals for 2020, members of the Historic Metcalf Franklin Farm Preservation Association are planning to start using a biodegradable material in their garden, pursue grant funding, and make repairs to the historic barn.

During an annual report on the farm at the Feb. 5 Town Council meeting, Julie Guerin, secretary of the association, and Carrie Almon, treasurer, provided an overview of projects slated for this year and shared a list of last year’s achievements.

Guerin gave “special thanks to all the volunteers for giving their time, energy, and efforts in preserving a special piece of Cumberland history.”

The mission of the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, founded in 2006, is to preserve the historic farm, provide educational opportunities, and grow vegetables for the Rhode Island Food Bank and other local food pantries, she said.

Wanting to “adopt a strong environmental culture,” Guerin said volunteers will stop using plastic to cover all of the vegetable beds, instead converting to a biodegradable material. “Fingers crossed,” she said, that it works. They’re also discouraging single-use plastic on the farm, including water bottles.

In order to make repairs to the barn, Guerin said, the association will continue to seek grants in partnership with the town’s Planning Department.

The installation of a new furnace in the farmhouse is estimated to cost $20,000, she said. Following the removal of a previous furnace, “there’s no heat on the farm currently.”

Repairs to the barn are not expected to exceed $10,000, but it needs “significant stabilization, cleaning out, and restoration,” according to Guerin. They need to repair the east-facing door looking out to Abbott Run Valley Road, which is propped up with boards and is not structurally sound or secure, and shingle the south-facing exterior wall.

Volunteers are hoping to pave the way to seek grant funding for a master restoration plan, she said.

Among last year’s achievements, volunteers gave approximately 40,000 volunteer hours to the farm, she said.

Approximately 600 students visited Franklin Farm and learned about its history as well as ecology and environmental science, and the Cumberland High School Ecology Club planted 7,000 seeds in the community garden.

A newly launched program offered Saturday hikes, and farm items and artifacts were recovered through a Rhode Island Relics metal detecting event, she said.

Following its mission to help feed food-insecure folks and provide fresh vegetables to the Rhode Island Food Bank and other local community food pantries, Almon noted that the group last summer reached a milestone, donating 100 tons of food to the Food Bank.

In 2019, they produced almost 36,000 pounds of fresh vegetables, which equates to approximately 100,000 servings, she said, and community members used 32 plots to grow their own vegetables. The group also held its annual plant sale last fall, its Harvest Festival, which brought 2,000 visitors to the farm, and hosted a new 5K race.

“We’ve done a lot this year,” said Almon. “In just two years I’ve seen things grow,” she said, adding that they have a “very committed group” at the farm.

Volunteers are always welcome. For more, visit www.franklinfarmri.org .

Members of the public are invited to attend the association’s annual meeting this Saturday, Feb. 15, at 9 a.m. in the Community Room at the Cumberland Public Safety Complex, 1379 Diamond Hill Road.