Bedrock Gardens in Lee gets national recognition
If you’re looking for reason to be optimistic that people might still be able to find common ground in this time of what seems like insurmountable ideological polarization, John Forti has some advice: Check out a local garden club.
“I’d go out to lecture garden groups all the time, pre-COVID,” Forti says, “and would see them making a huge difference and fostering common ground.”
Forti is something of an ambassador for New Hampshire’s horticultural community. He’s the executive director of Bedrock Gardens, a ”public oasis of art, horticulture and inspiration” that sprawls across 37 acres of farmland in Lee. To Forti, though, the gardens also offer an invaluable opportunity to foster deeper connections to the natural world that visitors can carry with them back to their communities.
“To me, it’s always been important that landscapes offer a sense of place,” Forti says. “I think when we teach from a sense of place, people learn to value and be better stewards of the land.”
Forti also cofounded and chairs the board of “Slow Food Seacoast,” a local arm of an international movement to cultivate an appreciation for “good, clean and fair” food.
And on top of all that, Forti readily shares photos and commentary with hundreds of thousands of loyal Facebook followers under the moniker of “The Heirloom Gardener.” He’s now turning that expertise into a book (“The Heirloom Gardener — Artisanal Gardening for a Changing World”) due out in spring 2021.
Forti’s love of gardening began early on, admiring both his neighbors’ ornamental arrangements in Cape Cod and his grandfather’s “intensively planted vegetable patches” in the middle of Boston. As he sees it, “gardens are nourishment for mind, body and spirit.” And his work to spread this philosophy to rookie planters and expert farmers alike has caught the attention of one of the country’s leading authorities on the subject, the National Garden Clubs Inc. The group, which distinguishes itself as the “largest volunteer gardening organization in the world,” is honoring Forti as one of three recipients of its 2020 Award of Excellence.
The award comes as Forti says he’s seeing a resurgence of local interest in gardening — both in the COVID-19 era “victory gardens” popping up in backyards across the country and in the renewed interest residents have shown for exploring public agritourism sites, especially as the pandemic has limited travel options. Forti’s also encouraged by the “whole new renaissance” of New Hampshire industries built around local flora, fauna and food: farms offering tours and harvest opportunities to the public, but also breweries, distilleries, gardens and more.
“We’re seeing an enormous resurgence of people trying to find meaning and connection” through gardens and gardening, whether at home or in their communities, he says. Plus, he says, it’s as good a time as any to “get out from behind our blue screens” and get closer to green space
of all kinds.
“It can remind you that the world is actually a beautiful place — or can be,” he says.