Thanks to a donor-provided grant received last fall, the Friars purchased additional lumber and planting materials to expand San Damiano Farm. Reconfiguration and enhancement over the winter resulted in 246 raised garden beds. Given the mild winter weather and early spring, many beds are already planted with lettuce, sugar snap peas, and other vegetables. Flowers have been grown from seeds throughout the winter in the hoop house, and the annual flower plantings around Graymoor will be underway shortly.
San Damiano Farm is under the care of manager Bob Conboy and residents of the farm. The San Damiano Project is a transitional housing program for men who have completed their addiction recovery at St. Christopher’s Inn. Up to 24 men can live at the farmhouse, although due to COVID-19 and admission restrictions, there are currently fewer residents. The men continue to receive counseling and other recovery services at St. Christopher’s Inn as they begin to reintegrate into community living. One important element of the project is their assistance with working on the farm.
COVID-19 has created an even greater interest in community-supported agriculture and small organic farms like San Damiano. The farm’s produce is shared with St. Christopher’s Inn, the friaries, and the local food pantry in Peekskill, NY, and it is open to the public on summer Fridays. Produce is also sold to five local restaurants. Revenue from the sale of produce and flowers is reinvested in the purchase of seeds and plants for next year.
Mr. Conboy has been diligently following the CDC and SCI guidelines during this time and is hoping that COVID-19 will not have a drastic impact on the farm activities as the busy season approaches. He said, “While we started planting outside at the farm in early March, we don’t expect to have any produce for sale (or to donate) until mid-to-late May. Please watch for the notifications that will let you know when the markets at the farm will begin.”