Providing sustenance for people in need is an ongoing debate, with no clear solution on the horizon. So one man decided to make a difference on his own. John Fallon turned a traffic island into a garden and farms thousands of pounds of produce. He then delivers it to homeless shelters in Massachusetts.
Turning a Traffic Island into a Garden for the Homeless
Fallon, a retired engineer, noticed the traffic island in Beverly, especially its wide space that could be used as an allotment.
“I was looking at it one day at three in the afternoon,” Fallon, 61, said to ABC News outlet WCVB. “It was full sun and I thought, ‘Wow, this is perfect.’”
He asked the Massachusetts Department of Transportation if he could plant food on it.
“I told them, ‘I’m not taking any money out of this. It’s all going to go to charity,’” John said. “So, they were happy with it.”
Now drivers and passersby could see the wonder themselves: a flourishing garden in the center of Hale Street in Beverly.
Fallon’s father, an Irish Immigrant, taught him his farming skills as they worked together in the family’s backyard garden. Years later, Fallon had cultivated those skills in his large home garden. He gave away his extra produce to his neighbors in need. And now he has been farming that traffic island for five years.
“I started thinking about how much food (I) really needed (in order) to donate year-round,” he said. “That’s how it evolved into (a) bigger property.”
He called the spot the Beverly Farms Gardens, and it contains about a thousand plants. Last year, he had grown 3,5000 pounds of food for food pantries, homeless shelters, and other organizations that aid low-income families. This year, he got 7,000 pounds of food so far. 
“I could see the need was going to be greater,” said Fallon, in regard to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
The 8,000-square-foot Beverly Farms Gardens grows broccoli, peppers, two types of zucchinis, three types of squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant.
“In the future, I hope to turn it into a classroom for these departments, like environmental science and biology,” he said.
The Beginning of Fallon’s Farming Philanthropy
In 2014, two years before he asked for permission to plant on a traffic island, he donated tomato plants from his home garden to a children’s farming program. This inspired him to grow produce in the community garden and donate them to church-organized meal programs.
His philanthropy is motivated by the desire to promote social and economic justice.
“People get laid off and can’t find jobs for reasons they have no control of,” he said, adding that often this reason is simply automation. He knows how it feels to lose a job, having been laid off his longtime position as a semiconductor in 2007.
“Everyone should help those less fortunate than them,” he surmised.
Although it’s mostly a one-man operation, volunteers occasionally help him out, like instances where college students weeded the plants and Gordon College’s women’s soccer team helped him out.
“John has made a difference for the people in need of his produce, and he has made a difference within our entire community,” said Bob Broudo, Landmark’s headmaster.
“He’s a very passionate person,” said Robyn Burns, executive director of The Salem Pantry. “He’s dedicated to growing food and distributing it to agencies who can really use it.”
Burns explained that although the Greater Boston Food Bank is the pantry’s main supplier, “John provides products we can’t always get there. And to have local food grown just miles away is really an asset for us.”
Using Decentralized Local Gardens to Aid the Environment
Fallon is a huge advocate for organic farming. Also, he encourages others to create a garden like his to help those in need. It would also be a great way to save the planet. 
“It’s not good for the environment to try and grow everybody’s food in one place like we’re doing right now in the Midwest,” Fallon said. “If we had a lot of decentralized local gardens where we tried to take care of our own, use our own resources, it’s better.”
For now, he is building a greenhouse so he’d be able to seed his own plants, making the entire process entirely independent. He’d like to install an irrigation system, but requires help from the community to complete this.
“My vision would be for each town or city to set aside 4 acres, whatever it takes to feed the homeless in their area,” he said.
- “Bounty from Beverly Farms traffic island feeds many people in need.” John Laidler. Boston Globe. September 10, 2020
- “5 for Good: Beverly man grows produce for charity on traffic island.” Erika Tarantal. WCVB. October 22, 2020
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