In order for a partnership between the Town of Oregon’s Anderson Farm County Park, Dane County Parks, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Extension and Madison-based nonprofit Rooted to grow, they had to dig deeper. Not metaphorically speaking, but literally – with a new water well.
The Anderson Farm Center, located primarily on approximately 40 acres of farmland west of Union Road, consists of 22 quarter-acre community gardens that are connected to the 300-acre Anderson Farm County Park.
The “farm center” concept supports 17 Hmong families and local growers with access to land, 28 acres for farmers market growers and a half acre affiliated with the Madison Area Food Pantry Garden network providing fresh produce to three pantries across Oregon, Belleville and Verona.
Additional land on the east side of Union Road is designated for future agricultural activities. Approximately 70 acres of farmland in total has been identified in the park’s 2014 master plan for the market garden farm.
An agricultural well was installed in May 2021 and is ready for use, but the Anderson Park Friends, Inc. group supporting the park is still seeking funds to install a $20,000 underground irrigation system to supply that well water to the community garden plots and food pantry garden by April 1, 2022.
Once the well and irrigation system are all set up, APF will begin outreach to between five and 12 small private business growers and make available leases for two to five acres of land for five to seven years. That expansion is envisioned for a 24-acre southern field, but the irrigation system being installed in April won’t reach that far. So to serve the small businesses, another capital campaign will be held in 2022 or 2023, Parker said.
In 2022, this growing ‘farm center’ at 805 Union Road will also explore a partnership with Little John’s Kitchens, a nonprofit in Fitchburg aiming to provide pay-what-you-can meals to low-income community members. The farm center would refocus the vegetables it grows based on Little John’s needs, APF president Roe Parker said.
Fundraising campaign ended Dec. 17
The total project cost, including installation, was estimated in July 2021 to be $18,533. But when APF, Inc. requests a new, updated estimate in February 2022, the cost is likely to be higher due to inflation, Parker told the Observer.
But he believes it’s a worthwhile investment as the life expectancy of the system is 20 years. It will have a big impact on what kinds of produce the pantry gardens can grow, he said.
“When you compare the benefits to the project cost, you really need to look closer to get a better sense of how it will be impacting and supporting the community gardens and food pantry immediately,” Parker said. “One thing I’ve been trying to stress is when you make a donation to the food pantry to purchase food, it’s consumed in a month or two. But if you donate to this project, it will support the pantry for at least 20 years. Any donation to this will really have a sense of giving for years to come.”
From summer through Dec. 17, 2021, APF held a capital campaign to collect donations for the system as part of a multi-year strategic plan.
Throughout the focused campaign, APF generally reached and met its goals, Parker said. It received over 35 donations ranging from $25 to $500. And the project also received a grant. As of Dec. 23, there were still a couple of possibilities of receiving additional grants to cover some of the remaining funds needed. As such, Parker was not yet ready to release finalized fundraising numbers. He said APF will finalize a report in a few weeks.
But as of Tuesday, Dec. 29, a collection thermometer on the donation website indicated that $2,755 had been collected online. And APF will be putting in around $4,634 as a cash match to the local donations, Parker said.
The Friends group will work with its partner Rooted – a nonprofit specializing in small-scale agriculture – to look over the updated bid for the project in February, Parker said, and at that time they will have a better sense of their financial standing and will be in a position to understand how successful the fundraising campaign was.
But despite those loose ends, Parker feels assured that the project will definitely go forward.
All is ‘well’
The well Dane County installed is “first class,” Parker said, and has a computerized system. It can make adjustments for water pressure such as determining if there are 2 or 6 people using it at a time, he said.
Housed in a roughly six-foot by eight-foot shed on top of a concrete pad, the wellhead comes up into the shed and has two spigots – a traditional fixture for a garden hose, and a specialized agricultural hose spigot.
The irrigation system will be located underground through PVC piping. The manufacturer says the PVC has a lifespan of 80 years, Parker said.
Eventually the irrigation system will reach from 350 feet away from the well up to 500 to 600 feet, Parker said.
Around 20 out of the currently-developed 40 acres of the farm center will be served by the system to start.
“If I had a guardian angel, we’d put all 40 acres into irrigation now,” Parker said.