Country Woman

Growing Places

Backyard Growers founder Lara Lepionka has helped many community members plant and tend gardens of their own.


Lara Lepionka recalls the seeds of Backyard Growers well. It was 2008, in the midst of the recession, and the married mom of two babies was underemplo­yed. She and her young family were struggling to make ends meet. And so, with an idea perhaps born as much out of desperatio­n as inspiratio­n, she decided to start planting vegetables in her tiny yard in Gloucester, Massachuse­tts.

Though she had little previous experience gardening, Lara’s venture was a resounding success. Two years after she began digging up her yard, not only had she met her goal of providing healthy, inexpensiv­e food for her family, but she also managed to help her neighbors establish their own plots. “That was like lighting a fuse,” Lara says, “and Backyard Growers was the result.”

With a background working for nonprofits, from cultural organizati­ons to a farmers market, Lara was uniquely qualified to create Backyard Growers, an organizati­on that helps low- to moderate-income families grow their own healthy food. “We started it in 2010 with a handful of people on the block,” says Lara.

In the years since Lara created Backyard Growers, the organizati­on has blossomed. Today’s Backyard Growers staff and volunteers build gardens around Gloucester, on both private property and public land. They also support program participan­ts with training, seed swaps, seedling donations and cooking workshops.

A Backyard Growers public school program teaches students (preschool through eighth grade) to plant seeds and harvest veggies. Students even get to eat the fresh produce in their cafeterias!

Recently, the organizati­on has grown beyond Gloucester, working to expand its programmin­g to more than 45 schools and nonprofits in New England.

Lara says she hopes that Backyard Growers will provide more people with access to nutritious food. “I want to see communitie­s where people have the skills, knowledge and power to grow their own food,” she explains. “It’s quite astonishin­g to discover that you can feed yourself. It’s a little bit magical.”

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 ?? ?? Lara Lepionka (center) began gardening to help feed her family in the midst of the
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Lara Lepionka (center) began gardening to help feed her family in the midst of the & o`^`ppelkҼ

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