COMSOG: Developing roots for 25 years
On Sunday, as talk of alternative fuels and finding ways to stretch a family's grocery budget intensifies, the Community Solar Greenhouse (COMSOG), will be celebrating its silver anniversary.
Launched 25 years ago by a small group of Island residents as an experiment, the Community Solar Greenhouse on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs has become a place where families can supplement their household food budgets with vegetables and herbs that people can purchase inexpensively. It offers gardening workshops, space to garden, and plants for sale.
According to the Greenhouse volunteer coordinator Chuck McBride, people who have gardens can get a jumpstart on the season by growing their seedlings there. COMSOG members may bring seedlings to start, or pick them up at the greenhouse. They can tend their own plants or rely on the support of volunteers, who will help bring new plants to maturity. In addition to the greenhouse structure, there is garden space available for the transplanting of seedlings from inside when the spring weather arrives, or members may take their plants home to their own gardens.
"Twenty-five years ago the COMSOG greenhouse was a place where people could get things started in the winter, and so we could expand Martha's Vineyard's growing season," said Linc Hanson, the first president of the organization. In 1983, Mr. Hanson put up the frame and the plastic sheeting that serves as the COMSOG roof.
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Today COMSOG, on about a quarter of an acre of land owned by Dukes County, counts 150-200 supporting members who pay $30 a year for an individual memberships or $35 for a family. About a dozen Island residents make up the active volunteers.
Throughout the year, the grass-roots organization raises funds by plant sales and events such as the David Crohan concerts, one of which was held this past June as part of the 25th anniversary celebration.
Thalia Scanlon of West Tisbury, COMSOG's current president, has been instrumental in the introduction of heirloom tomatoes, and making them a popular feature of the greenhouse. A self-taught and passionate gardener, Ms. Scanlan's own Lambert's Cove backyard contains close to 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes - ones grown from seeds that have been passed from one generation to another.
At COMSOG, the heirloom tomato seedlings that she and others grow can be purchased. It began about seven years ago, as a Mother's Day fundraiser, and was such a success it is now an annual event that includes about 40 varieties of seedlings.
However, as it was 25 years ago, the greenhouse remains totally dependent on sunshine to create its growing environment; there are no solar panels being used.
Photo by Rebecca Sherman
"Its solar as solar was 25 years ago," Mr. Hanson explained with wry humor. "If the sun doesn't come out there are no solar plants."
Mr. McBride said, "The sun shines through the plastic and heats the place up so it works for growing and is comfortable for the growers. Of course, everyone thinks about gardening in the summer but we like to encourage people to come in, join up, and be active gardeners in the colder months. Here they can work in the soil growing colder weather plants indoors as well as getting seedlings started for the spring."
Sunday's silver anniversary festival is scheduled from 12 noon to 3 pm at COMSOG with music by the Dunkle brothers and others, crafts, food, and "the feeling of a block party," according to Mr. McBride.
COMSOG Fall Festival, Sunday, Oct. 5, 12 noon to 3 pm. It features a fall festival with music, crafts, antiques and more. Free. 508-693-2019
Freelance writer Susan L. Silk is a Tisbury resident.