WALTHAM—With a tractor parked at one end, empty growing tables and other equipment in various states of repair, there wasn’t much green to speak of yesterday in Waltham Fields Community Farm’s greenhouse.
By this time next week, though, the nursery should be bursting with activity, with as many as 1,500 trays of fruits, vegetables and herbs spring to life.
With the spring growing season about to kick off, farm manager Amanda Cather said, she will spend the next few days planting thousands of seeds in anticipation of a busy summer.
"This week, we’re getting the fields ready, and starting to plant," she said, as she laid out trays to hold the sprouting plants. "We’ve got to get a lot of planting done in the next month."
Founded 11 years ago on land owned by the University of Massachusetts, the farm was initially created as a way to tackle hunger.
Every year, Cather said, 30 percent of the farm’s annual crop is donated to a half-dozen hunger-relief organizations throughout the city. All told, she guessed, the farm has provided some 175,000 pounds of farm-fresh, organic produce to the region’s hungry.
"That’s really why I do this," she said. "I feel like organic food should go to everybody, not just people who shop at Whole Foods.
"We’ll start with seeds, and in a couple days, they’ll pop up and we’ll put them out in the field at the beginning of April. By the end of the week, it’s going to be absolutely full with onions, beets, spinach, leeks, cabbage, kale and scallions," to name just a few.
"Fresh produce is just a wonderful donation for us," said Stephanie Nichols, the public relations manager at the Greater Boston Food Bank, one of the agencies which benefits from the farm’s harvest.
But because fresh produce has such a short shelf-life, she said, it can present a unique challenge.
"We have to turn it around very fast, because, of course, it’s perishable, and we have to have the cooler space to keep it, and we have to distribute it really fast," Nichols said.
To get around the problem, the farm donates some of the produce directly to groups served by the Food Bank, like the Red Cross and Salvation Army food pantries and Sandra’s Lodge, a family homeless shelter located at the Fernald Development Center.
Cather wasn’t the only one getting ready for spring, though.
In a greenhouse next door to Cather’s, Steve Tracy, director of the Waverley Place program, which offers recovering patients from McLean Hospital in Belmont a chance to develop agricultural job skills.
"People (here) are in recovery from mental illness, and they are in the program to develop work skills," Tracy said.
The program usually serves between six and eight people at a time, who eventually move into jobs in agriculture and other fields.
"Right now, we’re getting set up for spring," Tracy said. "We have some pansies over there, and some onions and some basil."
Cather’s farm also operates on the community-supported agriculture, or CSA, model, in which residents or supporters can purchase "shares" in the farm, giving them a portion of the yearly harvest.
The farm typically sells about 250 shares at $500 apiece, Cather said.
Considering the amount of fruits and veggies they get, she said, the price is a bargain.
"It’s great," she said. "We have 45 different crops. We have people that split them, and we have families that buy a full share for themselves. They’re definitely getting their money’s worth."