The day – Volunteers cultivate “what the earth has given” for those in need
East Lyme – East Lyme Giving Garden director Liz Farley said the land on Church Lane gave the budding nonprofit a great harvest in its first year.
Farley this week looked at over eight 120-foot-long rows of carefully manicured soil as she removed garden fabric from one of the front sections.
“I’m so proud of the cabbage heads,” she said, revealing the gigantic, leafy Brassicaceae that thrived under the opaque cover designed to protect them from pests and the elements. “That’s what I mean when I say what the earth has given us.”
The Giving Garden, which is in its first year at the Church Lane site, had already produced 644 pounds of food on Monday. Crates of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cucumbers and zucchini have been delivered to Gemma E. Moran United Way / Labor Food Center in New London since the first seedlings started producing there about a month old.
“Everything that is grown here is used to feed the food insecurity of Southeast Connecticut,” she said.
Centraide statistics show that one in six children in the region is food insecure, compared to one in seven nationally. This means that they do not have constant access to enough food for an active and healthy life.
Last year, the food center distributed the equivalent of 2,047,459 meals and snacks to 76 distribution sites, including pantries, shelters, daycares, community meal sites, programs for the elderly and Centraide’s Mobile Food Pantry.
Farley said people often confuse the idea of Giving Garden with the popular concept of a community garden, which provides plots where people can grow their own food. She said a few people showed up on Church Lane to ask if they could do their gardening there.
“Well, yeah,” Farley laughed. “But you can’t take him home.”
The Giving Garden itself can trace its roots back to a local community garden, having started last year on 20 plots donated to Samuel Smith Farm on Plants Dam Road. But Lindsay Rush, secretary of the board of directors of East Lyme Giving Garden, said the donation of 4 acres of land from Flanders Baptist and Community Church had enabled the organization to be where it is today. hui.
Reverend Alan Scott, pastor of the Baptist and Community Church of Flanders, said the church applauds the work done by the members of Giving Garden. “We in the church are grateful that this land can be used to grow produce for the needy,” he said.
Farley said the land, which had been cultivated over generations – including by Scott’s great-grandfather Frank Bruce – was “basically barren” by the time the Giving Garden arrived.
As there was no organic matter or minerals left to support growth, the group proceeded to apply compost, add minerals, add a little lime to counteract the acidity of the chicken manure and apply rye as a cover crop. Electricity and irrigation systems have been installed. An office, shed and washing stations were built.
As of May, the group was ready to plant 550 plants grown by the Eastern Connecticut Community Garden Association. Farley said the four founding members of Giving Garden specifically chose high-yielding, low-maintenance and disease-resistant crops.
“At that time, we weren’t sure if we would have good volunteer staff, so we wanted something that we could just plant and use,” she said.
But support has come from groups such as the Niantic Lions Club, the Shoreline East Lyme Leos Club, the Rotary Interact Club of East Lyme High School, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as many people who come to help during the sessions. volunteering usually takes place three days a week in the morning before the sun gets too strong.
The group also organized two fundraisers that raised about $ 30,000 in total, thanks to matching funds from SustainableCT.
Farley said future costs are expected to be around $ 10,000 per year, covering items such as insurance, electricity and a wireless internet connection.
The success of the garden isn’t just about the core group of nine people who run the day-to-day operations, according to Rush – “This was built by the community.”
Farley and Rush both pointed out that there was no experience needed to help out in the garden, which Rush says is as “organic as it gets” without jumping through the hoops needed to get the official designation from the US Department. of Agriculture.
Farley put it this way: “You don’t need experience to use a shears to remove zucchini.”
Rush singled out volunteers who find cannabis to be therapeutic. “When we see them it’s like ‘Yes! We have a place for you’,” she said.
More information is available at eastlymegivinggarden.org.