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Let it grow: Organizations team up to bring organic gardening series to city

Courtesy photo Ron Christie works in one of his greenhouses in January after harvesting several bins of spinach. Christie will be teaching workshops this spring at Nashua High School North for residents who are interested in learning how to grow their own food.

NASHUA – With the hopes of creating a community that is self-reliant, while supporting ecologically sound food production, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, Grow Nashua, ReGenerative Roots Association and The Greater Nashua Food Council have teamed up to bring “Feeding the Family Organic Gardening Series” to Nashua High School North.

Nashua residents interested in learning how to cultivate their own organic gardens with hopes of feeding themselves and their families will have the opportunity this spring to participate in the nine-part series of workshops aimed at teaching the community how to go about such an endeavor.

The workshops, which will run from March 6 to May 9, will be led by local farmer and NOFA-NH board member Ron Christie, an avid four-season grower who has been teaching organic growing since 2011 after he became a master gardener for University of New Hampshire Extension.

Christie, who lives in Stratham, has been growing organic food for 13 years. He said along with his passion for growing is an equal love for sharing his experiences with those who are interested in learning how to cultivate their own sources of food.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I love sharing my knowledge and interacting with people, and sharing what they have experienced as well.”

He first started when he built his house and had a big open space in which he took a 30 feet by 60 feet area that he has doubled again and again during his years living there. Through time, Christie has created a relatively large organic farming area on his property.

Through his experience and experimentation, Christie has developed his own system of organic growing. Some of his techniques include the implementation of his own miniature greenhouse system, called a high tunnel system, which can be moved in order to rotate crops. There is also a capillary irrigation system that pulls water into the grow area of the crops. This helps to conserve water, while optimizing the hydration of the plants.

During the classes at the high school, Christie will be sharing these techniques and many other methods, such as how to avoid using pesticides and instead using certain insects to control other bugs that will do harm to the food being grown.

Growing your own food provides a multitude of health benefits, Christie said, starting with the physical aspect of moving and getting fresh air outside in a natural environment.

“Just the mere act of gardening gets you outside,” he said, “and it’s healthy for you.”

Along with that physical exercise, individuals who grow their own food have a higher chance of avoiding pesticides and herbicides that may contain carcinogens.

Christie cited multiple studies, including one done by the University of Washington that said the chemical glyphosate – which is the most widely used herbicide and the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup – may have a strong correlation to cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Another benefit to growing, Christie said, is the ability for people to grow food with nutritional value. Christie said organic growers are provided the ability to select what they want to produce.

“If you’re growing your own stuff, you can select your own varieties,” Christie said, “and you can find healthier options.”

Each workshop is aimed at providing those in attendance with knowledge that will help them become more self-reliant, while teaching them the fundamentals of organic gardening and farming. Christie said programs such as these help residents realize that they have the ability to grow their own food.

Those who are intimidated by the prospect of gardening and farming their own food will learn that failing is part of the process. Christie said patience and the willingness to learn about growing will go a long way in helping curb anxieties. Along with knowledge, those who begin growing must be willing to fail and learn from their experiences.

“Farmers fail all the time,” Christie said, “and they go back and continue growing.”

With a limited amount of space available for the classes, the program is still looking for sponsors to offer scholarships to help those who wish to attend, but cannot afford the fees.

Those interested in attending can go to www.nofanh.org/gardeningseries to register.