"IF WE BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME"
One August afternoon in 2012, a bulldozer tackled a jungle in Clinton, clearing land behind the Episcopal Church of the Holy Advent Parish Hall, knocking down tall trees and shoving underbrush out of the way. When the dust cleared, there was a beautiful sight – a large level plot with hardly a rock on it!
Church members, who had hosted the food pantry in Clinton over the past decade, immediately saw the potential for a garden to augment the pantry offerings. Rob Chase, who at the time owned Spencer Hill Farm in Killingworth, worked closely with parishioners and other volunteers to get the project off the ground. In the spring of 2013, a hardy band of volunteers put deer fencing around the main garden (measuring 100x200 feet), installed water lines, dug beds, planted seeds, and transplanted seedlings started by Shoreline Gardens in Clinton. During that first year, we realized we needed a lot of money… and somehow we raised it.
We purchased seeds and plants, fencing, water hoses, tools, and packaging supplies. We built storage sheds, and created a watering system. More volunteers came, tool sheds were built, and a greenhouse was assembled.
By the end of that first season, the proud gardeners (all amateurs) had contributed 3,750 pounds of vegetables, herbs and flowers to the food pantry, which is one of five in the Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries network. At that time, the Clinton pantry served about 80 families from Clinton, Killingworth, Westbrook, and other Shoreline communities. The second year, the Food for All Garden contributed 5,900 pounds, the third year 6,580 pounds, and last year 9,740 pounds – bringing the grand total of fresh produce supplied to more than 13 tons! Over this time, the garden has been expanded and improved, thanks to generous donations from several area foundations as well as local civic and church organizations, and the number of people seeking help has risen to 130 or more each week.
Moreover, the CT Department of Agriculture gave a significant grant to cover the expenses of digging a well and erecting a hoop house (high tunnel), to help assure sustainability and extend the growing season. But the real secret has been hard-working volunteers, who manage to have fun no matter how hot, sweaty and dirty they become!
Peter Larom (Holy Advent)
Margaret Larom (Holy Advent, Common Good Gardens Board)
Rob Chase (Spencer Hill Farm, Killingworth)
Lin Smith (Clinton Food Pantry manager, SSKP VoIunteer & Program Coordinator)
Miner Vincent (Families Helping Families)
Kathy Gladwin (Pretty Committee, Clinton)
Daniele and Hal Tzeutschler (Clinton residents, Common Good Gardens volunteers)
Dee Mozzochi -- herb garden (Holy Advent)
Deb Rota – flower beds (Clinton Food Pantry volunteer)
Paula Emery (Holy Advent)
Board and volunteers of Common Good Gardens (Grace Church, Old Saybrook)
Dave Konefal (St. Mary’s Garden, Clinton)
Suzanne Baker (Shoreline Nurseries, Clinton)
Kathy Connolly (Organic gardener & teacher, www.speakingoflandscapes.com)