Volunteer Spotlight: Martel Catalano
I hadn't grown up gardening in my New Jersey suburb and hadn't been taught about it until I went to Skidmore where, during my senior year, they piloted their own vegetable garden and I dipped my toes in briefly. I knew that growing food is an environmentally and economically conscious pursuit, but hadn't had much exposure to it, all in all. In the spring of 2017 I went to Napa Valley and had an opportunity to work on a wonderful farm that really lit me up inside. I loved being outside, doing something so beneficial for myself, others, and Earth. Right when I got back, I set out to find a local community farm and saw that Pitney Meadows was having its first public meeting. I went to that meeting, feeling like the youngest person in the room, but knew that I needed to get a plot at the community garden. It wasn't even a question for me.
The first time I went to the gardens I met Natalie and she told me all about growing crops and tending them. I continued to visit my little plot every couple of days, treating my seedlings with excitement but total uncertainty. I quickly learned about pruning basil, the pests and fungi that can take over zucchini, and just how many cherry tomatoes one crop can yield. I made pesto and gave it to some of the other gardeners. I volunteered in the Giving Garden to learn about vegetables other than the ones I was growing myself, and gave away bowls and bowls of those little red circles.
When I am biking over to the farm – which is the way I get there most often from downtown Saratoga – I feel so content. Even more so when I am leaving with my basket full of veggies and herbs. I work for myself so when I'm feeling stressed midday, I'll close my laptop and hop on my bike. It gives me a peaceful, yet productive, thing to do when I am feeling overwhelmed. My favorite time of day to go to my garden, however, is early evening. There might be only one other person there tending to their crops and we either nod at each other in acknowledgment of the beginnings of a sunset or strike up a conversation. I have this place to thank for giving me a tranquil escape, an instant connection to the natural world, and a community to be a part of.
I'm one of the youngest gardeners at the farm, and yet I feel a strong sense of connection to every person I meet there. Whether that person is my grandparents' age, a new parent, or a child exploring the fairy garden, we're all there in appreciation and acknowledgment for this space. Pitney Meadows means so much to me that I now serve on the Fund Development Committee. As someone who runs a nonprofit myself, I know how important it is to have a supportive group of entities that keep things functioning, and it brings me great joy to help this place continue to grow.