I’ve been told that spring isn’t canceled. So with this promise of spring, we are working hard to get our community and backyard gardens ready for the growing season so people can have fresh, healthy food to put on their tables. As with most things these days, this pandemic is threatening this promise.
Now more than ever community and backyard gardens are a critical part of our local food system. Gardens help improve food security and the health and nutrition of our most vulnerable populations. And now, with looming job losses and income instability for many more residents, growing some of one’s one food in backyard, community, and even container gardens can make a big difference in the health and wellness of our community during this unprecedented time.
We want you to know that we are working harder than ever to deliver new and innovative ways to serve our economically vulnerable seniors and families–through virtual training, safe seed and seedling distribution, enhanced digital content through our website, and a new, affordable container garden program.
We need your help to keep the promise of spring alive for our gardeners and program members. Please consider making a monthly, sustaining gift to Backyard Growers so we can continue to serve our community. When you make a new or increased monthly contribution today, your donation will be DOUBLED thanks to our friends at The Lenny Zakim Fund . Please make the biggest impact possible by supporting us today. DONATE HERE
If you’re interested in more Information on how you can become a Backyard Garden participant or Community Gardener, including income eligibility information, click here . For households that do not meet BYG income eligibility, Backyard Growers has partnered with Black Earth Compost to deliver and install raised bed gardens around the region.
For more information on our plans for Backyard Growers’ programs, visit my blog post here.
With gratitude and wishes for strong health and happier time
Lara Lepionka
Founder & Executive Director at Backyard Growers


In a bid to keep you and your children entertained and informed during our current doomscape, we will be putting a bunch of unrehearsed, unscripted, off-the-cuff, slightly wacky garden trainings and info sessions on-line for your viewing pleasure and acquisition of gardening knowledge (basically our official gardening training, but in a virtual format, and free for all). Spring is upon us and it’s almost time to plant!

PLUS, our very own Executive Director, Lara Lepionka, will be hosting our first-ever virtual story hour to keep your littles entertained and focused on growing food! Mark your “calendars” for the first story hour! Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10 AM EST. Lara will gladly distract your children for a full 18 minutes with a charming gardening tale from yesteryear. (Don’t worry, we will get through this.) LOOK HOW EXCITED I AM TO TELL YOUR KIDS A STORY.


COVID-19 is having a direct impact on many families and seniors in our community. We’ve put together a list of resources available to those experiencing food insecurity and hunger at this challenging time. We’re all in this together. For assistance, please see below:

🥕 Project Bread – Food Source Hotline: The toll-free Hotline responds to more than 28,000 calls a year from people across Massachusetts struggling to feed their families. FoodSource Hotline counselors refer callers to food resources in their community as well as provides them with information about school meals, summer meal sites for kids, elder meals programs, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

🥕 The Open Door – The Food Pantry at The Open Door provides emergency groceries to those in need. Community Meals offer free, nutritious meals to those in need of food.

🥕 Gloucester School Food Service Department – The City has established a lunch “Pick-Up Station” at O’Maley Middle School at 312 Cherry St., Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. – noon. All children ages 18 and under, regardless of their Free/Reduced/Full Pay status will receive a FREE complete nutritious bagged lunch daily. The meals are prepared under the same strict nutrition and food safety guidelines that are followed every day in our school kitchens. Meals may not be consumed at the “Pick-Up Station” limiting participants’ interaction and proximity to other participants.

🥕 The Office of the Mayor of the City of Gloucester If you are self-quarantining or under mandatory quarantine (none as of 3/16) and need food assistance, please contact the Mayor of the City of Gloucester at The City has runners and will drop off a food package to you.

🥕 Backyard Growers will soon be launching a program to make container gardening materials and resources available to our community – putting the power to grow your own food on more doorsteps, patios, back stairs, and backyards throughout the region, in a variety of shapes and sizes. Watch this space.


Find out why Dr. Brian Orr, Gloucester pediatrician and President of the Backyard Growers’ Board of Directors, believes in the power of learning to grow your own food.

“Hi, I’m Brian Orr. I’m a pediatrician in Gloucester, and I’ve been here for close to twenty years. I’ve been taking care of young kids and asking them a lot about whether they eat their vegetables. And, to much frustration on my part, a lot of times kids say they don’t eat their vegetables, or question my question, or wonder what a vegetable is.

And so, over time, I’ve become part of Backyard Growers. I’m now President of the Board. I’ve seen what they do for kids in the schools, in their homes, and at their gardens. I see that kids actually see vegetables growing, learn what vegetables are, and, to, my great pleasure, I now hear answers from kids saying that, ‘yeah, I know Backyard Growers, yeah, I eat my vegetables.’ And they can even name some vegetables that they eat.

I think that Backyard Growers does a great job educating our kids as to what healthy eating really is. It’s a great thing for kids to be a part of. If you’re interested in supporting them, check out”


Back to school beauty: East Gloucester Elementary

DPW year round endeavors, Backyard Growers beds, and EGS PTO grounds help East Gloucester elementary be back to school ready. Neighbors, too! In August, three generations tackled the turnabout center island.

Before / After



Join Backyard Growers at

the Gloucester Grow Fest on

Sunday, June 9!

The Gloucester Grow Fest is a FREE community event featuring tons of hands-on, family-friendly activities to celebrate healthy eating, green living and personal wellness!

Activities for the whole family include yoga, art projects, games, gardening and cooking demos, and garden tours, with awesome community members like:

Last year’s Grow Fest was an amazing community celebration and this year, we’re bringing DOUBLE THE FUN to Burnham’s Field in Gloucester. Check out these highlights from 2018 and GET EXCITED for a Grow Fest that’s even bigger and better in 2019!

Backyard Growers BUILD Day

One Hour at a Time Gang

We need your muscle power! 💪

Backyard Growers’ 10th growing season is off to a great start – in spite of the weather! For our BUILD Day 2019, we’re making a final push to build new garden beds for families and seniors around Cape Ann so that they can enjoy their own fresh veggies this summer and into the fall. But we can’t do it without you! WE NEED YOUR HELP to build these garden beds.

Interested in joining the party? Meet us at Backyard Growers HQ (271 Main Street) in downtown Gloucester at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 11, ready to get your hands dirty, make a difference, and have an awesome time! Rumor has it it’s going to be SUNNY🌞, too!


An Invitation from Backyard Growers

We’re unveiling big changes, exciting new goals and a vision for the future tonight at 5 p.m. But before tonight’s party, we want to share the announcement that Associate Director of Community Programs Anna Swanson is headed for new pastures at Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. It’s bittersweet, as she’s been so essential to our growth and success. But, we’re thrilled to share that we’ll be welcoming J. Harrison as Interim Program Director. J. officially joins Backyard Growers after 13 years at The Food Project and behind-the-scenes support of our work since the very start.

Click here to meet J., and stop by our HQ at 271 Main Street from 5 – 7 p.m. to toast the future and learn more about our vision for the next three years at Backyard Growers.

You’ve been our roots, now we’re spreading our wings.

You helped us get here and now we want to share where we’re going. We’ll share our vision for the future at a wine and cheese reception celebrating and saying thank you to our fantastic community. Join us to learn what’s next as we tackle our mission to build a healthy, connected, environmentally sustainable community in Gloucester and beyond.

Thursday, January 24, 2018
Drop-in reception: 5 – 7 p.m.
Brief thank you and presentation: 6 p.m.
BYG HQ, 271 Main Street, Gloucester, MA

Nichole’s Picks 6/2 + 6/3

With warmer weather comes all sorts of fun springtime activities.

Pick #1:  Gloucester Grow Fest

What’s free, green, and fun?  Gloucester Grow Fest.

Presented by Backyard Growers, the first annual Gloucester Grow Fest sounds like a great way to spend a day!

When: Saturday, June 2, 2018, 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Where: Burnham’s Field, 9 Sargent St Ext. Gloucester 01930

Join Backyard Growers as we present the first annual Gloucester Grow Fest, a free event for all ages to celebrate healthy eating, green living, and warm weather! We’ll have garden tours, art projects, yummy food, games, live music, community yoga, and more. Organizations from across Cape Ann will be there leading activities.

Activities for all Ages presented by the following organizations:

Action, Inc.
Alprilla Farm
Backyard Growers
Black Earth Compost
Cape Ann Art Haven
Cape Ann Farmer’s Market
Cape Ann YMCA
Change is Simple
Common Crow Natural Market
Crossfit Cape Ann
Essex County Greenbelt
Generous Gardeners
Harbor Health Group
Inner Harmony Music Therapy
Lahey Health
The Open Door
One Ocean/One Love
Sawyer Free Library
Seaside Sustainability
Treetop Yoga

school flyer front for web

Pick #2:  Boston Cannons Lacrosse @ Endicott College

Exciting news!  The Boston Cannons Major League Lacrosse is coming to Endicott College this weekend and again on Saturday, June 23rd as part of their newly launched “Cannons in Your Community” effort.

The Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) announced that the club has created a new initiative to bring select regular season home games to two greater Boston communities in 2018. The Cannons will play one game at Hingham High School in Hingham, MA, and two games at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. The “Cannons In Your Community” effort is focused on strengthening the team’s community outreach and increasing direct engagement with greater Boston area lacrosse fans.

“We’re extremely excited to bring Cannons lacrosse to the communities of the South Shore and North Shore, both are very passionate about the sport,” said Cannons President Ian Frenette. “While our game continues to grow at a significant pace, we need to continue to do our part to drive the continued growth and engagement with current and prospective lacrosse fans in their towns. This initiative is going to give fans an even closer look at Cannons action in an intimate environment and provide us the opportunity to reach new fans by bringing the game to their neighborhood.”




Pick #3:  Strawberry Festival 

The Strawberry Festival at Cape Ann’s Marina Resort is always a lot of fun!

Saturday, June 2nd 11:00-4:00

Hosted by The Bridge Cape Ann, this event is a kick-off for the summer at Mile Marker One with Marshall’s Farm Stand.

FREE Parking! FREE Admission!

Kid Zone with Bouncy House, Pony Rides, Live Animals, Face Painting, Vehicles to explore from Gloucester Police Department (Official), Gloucester Fire Department, & the Coast Guard Station Gloucester.

Great Food & Drink, Live Music & Performers, Beer Tastings, Farmer’s Market, and of course, over 40 local vendors.


StrawberryFest_GDThalfpage copy


As always, for a comprehensive list of family activities, please visit our friends at North Shore Kid


Hello Friends of Backyard Growers,

Backyard Growers is on BankGloucester’s voting ballot for the first time for a chance to win up to $5,000!

Please help us rake in the votes!

Voting is from 5/1-5/31. You just need to vote once. And please share this opportunity with your networks!


Many thanks,


Survey says…feedback and ongoing outreach by Gloucester’s Open Space & Recreation Committee

Mayor Sefatia Romeo-Theken and Gloucester’s Open Space & Recreation Committee held a forum within the community center of the Maplewood Apartments complex on Thursday November 16th. The committee is working on the next Open Space plan for the city. (The prior one covering 2011-2017 has expired.) There was a brief presentation, results to the summer survey, and continued requests for suggestions and ideas. Gathering input will help prioritize possible Open Space & Recreation goals. Along with the important and detailed feedback already gathered from outreach, additional suggestions or wishes were given ‘open space’ 🙂 and welcomed at this little meeting.  A woman who works with Backyard Growers mentioned a garden of a different scale, with fruit trees and strawberry patches to walk through, engendering audible oos and ahhs and one request to add it “Right there!” Others dreamed of lights/safety at Burnham’s, Kayak storage and assistance, and drainage mitigation at Magnolia Fields.  Councilor Gilman took notes on the comments, and related one idea about a dedicated camping site.

You can check out the results to the survey (litter, dogs, and topics you care about are likely all in there) on the City’s website: (link coming) The presentation will tour. Look for upcoming dates and give thanks to this hardworking committee of volunteers, staff, and partners that advocate for open space and recreation. Committee members Patti Amaral, Heidi Wakeman, and Chair John McElhenny were there along with City staff  from community development and housing.


photos: arriving to the community center, well before the meeting commenced, setting up in progress

Annual Annisquam Sewing Circle Christmas Fair December 2nd

Save the Date! Press Release From The Annisquam Sewing Circle:

Each autumn the members of the Annisquam Sewing Circle gather to prepare for the Annual Christmas Fair, well known for its fabulous one-of-a-kind wreaths and center pieces as well as decorated boxwood trees. Also one will find beautiful bulbs and potted plants ready to give or take home, delicious homemade gourmet food items and handcrafted gift items. 

Annual Annisquam Sewing Circle Christmas Fair
December 2, 2017 – 8:00am – 12:00 pm
Annisquam Village Hall
34 Leonard Street, Gloucester MA 01930-1322

The Annual Christmas Fair & Luncheon and the Annual Plant and Gourmet Food Sale raise funds to support scholarships for graduating seniors who are going on to college, training for a trade or other educational opportunities and community projects on Cape Ann, for example: The Open Door Food Pantry, Backyard GrowersCape Ann Animal AidPathways for Children.

The Annisquam Sewing Circle was begun in 1837 as the Annisquam Female Benevolent Society. It is thought to be the oldest continuous independent society of women on Cape Ann.

The Society’s purpose as stated in its Preamble, was “for the performance of acts of benevolence.” Through the years, the Society, and now the Circle, has contributed generously to community programs and to individuals.

Web site:


O’Maley Fundraiser at Jalapenos Monday November 6th

You can’t visit downtown without feeling the impact of Gloucester’s generous local businesses and restauranteurs.  10% of Jalapenos business on Monday night November 6th will be donated to the Gloucester O’Maley Innovation Middle School afterschool program, O’Maley Acadmey. Jalapenos has a longstanding committment to community fundraising nights.

Come hang out or take out! Jalapenos is located at 86 Main Street Gloucester, MA (978) 283-8228 Jalapenos menu

O’Maley Academy works with many community partners, like Backyard Growers (Love this sweet new corner of happy on Main near their HQ!)

IMG_20171020_132230.jpgO'Maley Fundraiser Jalapenos Nov 6th 2017


Backyard Growers writes, “WHAT A NIGHT! Our sold-out Great Gloucester Growdown fundraiser last night was everything we could have hoped and more: a group of amazing people came together for a night of wonderful food at Short & Main, incredible music by SAFETY, and generous support of our school and community programs. All together we raised over $20,000 and the 7th graders at O’Maley will be getting a new wheat garden this year! THANK YOU to everyone who came out and dug deep. We are so lucky to have all of you partnering with us in this work. Special shout out to our fab event planning committee: Muffy Lake White, Karen Uhrowczik Harrison, Julie Lake, Sophie Ella Courser and Amelia Monday.”

To donate to Backyard Growers visit their website here.

To see photos, go to the Backyard Growers facebook page here.

To see more instagrams go to my twitter page here.

Polls are open! Nice to see the gleaming back-to-school floors and precinct volunteers

We encourage perfect attendance from our students. We are positive role models for participation at the polls.


Thank you city of Gloucester, schools, teachers, students, Backyard Growers and the dedicated precinct volunteers. Beyond voting, tangible benefits were the Veterans threshold gardens and lobby. Stop by your polling place before 8pm to vote! 


Top notch GPS O’Maley & Veterans teachers engage Cape Ann Museum, Backyard Growers, and Black Earth Composting thanks to Essex Heritage | North Shore Magazine spotlight

Gloucester Public School teachers shine through the North Shore Magazine September 2017 issue with exemplary projects helped in part by one of Essex Heritage grant programs: “A Park for Every Classroom”.  Essex Heritage supports local initiatives in a big way.


Congratulations to Gloucester Public Schools dynamite O’Maley Innovation Middle School 6th Grade teachers: Pat Hand, Mary Beth Quinn, and Jessica Haskell!

O’Maley 6th grade students collaborated with the Cape Ann Museum and a local cartographer to create maps of their diverse Gloucester neighborhoods. Part of an effort to get the entire 6th grade community to come together as they experience their first year of Middle School, the project aligned with the curricular focus on geography.  A collection of the students’ maps, called “Gloucester Through My Eyes,” is on display at the Cape Ann Museum.” 

Congratulations to Veterans Memorial Elementary School teachers Laura Smith and Mary Housman!  Their “students worked with Backyard Growers and Black Earth Composting to understand the benefits of composting, created posters and presentations to share their knowledge, implemented and monitored lunch-time cafeteria composting, and used the compost they created to enrich the soil in their school garden.” We were lucky to hear about this project during a pitch night at Awesome Gloucester.



Although only able to visit just two of the incredible Backyard Growers Gardens, the two that I did attend were fabulous and beautiful and overflowing with deliciousness. Lara Lepionka, founder of Backyard Growers, and Amy Clayton (one half of the Crazy Hat Lady sisters fame) are across-the-street neighbors. As a matter of interest, Amy grew up in what is now Lara and Steve’s home, and Lara’s first Backyard Growers garden customer was Amy!

This was the first ever Backyard Growers garden tour. In case you missed, don’t despair, a second is planned for next summer.

Bea, Lara, and Jen

Amy’s zucchini

Lara’s Beacon Street terraced front border is a series of raised beds. Every spare inch is devoted to growing veggies, herbs, and flowers; no high maintenance lawn here. Lara supplies the fresh greens for three local restaurants, Duckworth’s Bistrot, Short and Main, and the The Market on Lobster Cove. 

Lara’s California Poppies

Amy’s pumpkin on the vine

Sunflower bud

Amy’s towering sunflowers.

Both Lara and Amy’s gardens were abuzz with pollinators!