Capasso’s Garden of Giving


Good Housekeeping

The Capasso’s Garden of Giving, located in Hudson, Massachusetts, has been donating fresh produce since 2011.

The Capasso’s Garden of Giving, located in Hudson, Massachusetts, has been donating fresh produce since 2011. The land was owned by Danato and Elizabeth Capasso, and was offered to help expand from a garden by Raytheon, due to the high demand of fresh produce coming from food pantries. Since then, Michael Manere, the Chairman of the Board, and Gretel Anspach, the volunteer and labor coordinator, have helped the garden produce thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables for local food pantries so families can have access to fresh produce. 

Anspach explained, “The real mission is growing produce for the food pantries and besides that, it’s a reason to play outside. To have fun, to be in the sunshine, to learn things about nature and about farming.” Both Manere and Anspach expressed their love for helping others and have found gardening at the Capasso’s Garden of Giving as a good way to pursue their interests. 

Manere also added, “I felt bad because the grocery stores that were donating the food had good intentions but there was no nutrition.”

The Garden of Giving was born because of people like Manere and Anspach who realized that the produce available at food pantries was very old. It is difficult for food donation centers to maintain fresh fruits and vegetables, though these are so important to our nutrition. Often when food pantries ask for donations, they request canned and non-perishable food items. Though these items are probably more convenient, it is difficult to maintain a healthy diet with only preserved food. There are donations from grocery stores that include produce, but it is mostly old, low quality, and in very high demand. This is where Capasso’s Garden of Giving steps in. 

According to Manere, “The farm was started when we realized that at the food pantry the produce was very old, it had no taste to it. Gretel had the first idea, she opened a little garden out by Raytheon… then there was such high demand that we asked the Capassos if we could open a garden out back.” On the quarter acre of land, the garden grows a vast range of different types of produce. 

Manere detailed, “We’ve done everything from Zebra Zucchinis to different squashes to all different types of tomatoes, string beans, and cucumbers. That’s what we find people like the most.”

Currently, Capasso’s Garden of Giving donates to the Marlborough and Maynard food pantries, and has donated to the Berlin and Hudson food pantries in the past. Once the produce is harvested, it either gets delivered by Anspach to the Marlborough food pantry or is picked up by volunteers from the other food pantries. 

Anspach said, on average, that “We normally get between 1,500 and 2,000 [pounds]” per year. In 2018, the garden donated over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce, which was a record and also raised the bar for subsequent years. With so many pounds of produce, though, Manere and Anspach have faced countless difficulties in trying to keep the garden effectively giving to the community. 

One of the challenges for them has been lack of irrigation. Capasso’s Garden of Giving has its own irrigation pump which allows the garden to be watered with water from a nearby ditch. Despite the ease of watering from a nearby water source, the water pump has caused some issues when clogged. Besides the irrigation pump, the water supply that the garden uses has dried up too much in the past. Anspach explained, “It has dried up enough where we could only water for forty-five minutes once a week and that’s not enough to do a quarter acre.” Lack of labor has been a challenge for them as well. “There’s always something to do back there,” Manere stated. During a typical year at the garden, there are numerous jobs to be done. Most of the jobs include planting, weeding, and harvesting during the growing season.

There are also other challenges, such as keeping the soil nutritious for further gardening seasons, respecting the environment, and making the right decisions that will positively affect each season’s produce. 

Along with challenges of running the garden, it is also impossible for one garden to completely fix this problem. As Manere said, “No matter where you go somebody is hungry.” 

She continued, “We could do 6,000 pounds and still not meet the need for fresh vegetables.” The demand is still incredibly high, and many people don’t recognize the importance of fresh produce at food pantries. However, Capasso’s Garden of Giving and any others like it can help reduce some of the strain on local pantries, and help people who get their food there. Over time, this garden and it’s mission has greatly helped the pantries it supports, and will continue to improve people’s access to nutritious food in the years to come.