My sister Jessie is a shy autistic person who found her niche growing dahlias. Over the course of a decade fraught with housing insecurity and personal challenges, she nurtured her original twenty-five plants at Lanesville Community Garden into a thriving herd of 3500 plants (over 530 distinct varieties). Jess accomplished this on a shoestring budget by collecting yogurt containers to use as pots and working year round with hand tools in the cold, rain, heat, and sleet.
After expanding into friends’ back yards and Greenbelt properties, Jessie’s “roving” dahlia herd found green pastures at Seaview Farm in Rockport through the kind invitation of farmers Ken and Regina Lane. The dahlia field served as a place of joy and respite for the Cape Ann Community during the pandemic: walkers reveled in the beauty of the blooms, families picked their own wedding and funeral flowers, and artists brought their paints and easels. Jessie’s build-a-bouquet booth became a mainstay at Rockport Farmers Market, Rockport HarvestFest, and Seaview Farm Stand. Her dahlias have also been grown and enjoyed by people across the country via her online tuber shop.
During the 2021 growing season, catastrophic rains flooded Jessie’s dahlia field repeatedly. Over 95% of the plants perished, with all but fifteen varieties a complete loss. The precious tubers rotted in the ground and were not recoverable. Because it takes years to divide and increase tuber stock, this loss represented not just a season’s work but nearly a decade of labor and love.
The purpose of this fundraiser is to help "rebuild" Roving Radish, bringing Jessie's dahlias back to Rockport and creating a safe place for them to grow. Tubers for the 2022 season have already been donated by a number of generous fellow growers, with the remainder purchased with funds from an “Awesome Rockport” grant. After a landscaping expert determined that improving drainage at the original field would be an expensive undertaking with no guarantees, the Lanes generously offered the use of a second field across the street which is on much higher ground. Proceeds from this fundraiser will be used to run electricity to the new field to power a well pump, replace the weed control fabric destroyed by the flood, and build a modest tuber storage shedworkspace at the field. Any surplus funds will go toward business improvements such as trellis netting that will allow Jess to find more of a work/life balance.
Jessie and our family have been humbled and deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support she received from the community in the wake of this disaster. Thank you so much, from the bottom of our hearts.