Community garden expected to blossom at Molloy
Community garden expected to blossom at Molloy
Posted on 04/04/2014
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WEST HAVEN, March 31, 2014 — Starting this spring, part of the former Anna V. Molloy School property will be home to a new community garden that will provide 100 plant beds for residents and West Haven students.

The West Haven Community Garden, which is a pending nonprofit organization and run by volunteers, is now accepting applications from those interested in having their own plot of land for a small cost. The garden will designate beds for each of the West Haven School System’s six elementary schools, and another will be set aside to grow food donations for WHEAT, or the West Haven Emergency Assistance Taskforce.

West Haven resident Marilyn Wilkes, who is leading the initiative, hopes kids will learn about gardening and agriculture both through the elementary schools’ involvement and family garden plots.

“I’m really hoping a lot of families participate because it’s fun and a lot of kids don’t understand about food coming out of the ground versus getting it at the grocery store, and it really does support science and math learning. It’s good all the way around,” she said.

When she initially proposed the idea seven years ago to the city and school district, she had planned for schools to play an important role at the community garden. Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro said district Science Coordinator Raffaela Fronc is working with elementary schools to incorporate the garden beds into the science curriculum, since students study plants in the younger grades.

“I’m glad we were able to help Marilyn bring this idea to fruition and that this project will give some new life to one of our old school properties. What makes it even better is that our teachers and students can create new and hands-on learning opportunities at the garden, connecting what is being discussed in classrooms to real-life experiences,” Cavallaro said.

He added that Edith E. Mackrille Elementary School has had a bit of experience in this area, having installed raised beds in a school courtyard after receiving a “teaching garden” grant from the American Heart Association last fall.

“Mackrille’s students really enjoyed watering and harvesting the plants and learning about the agricultural process. It’s great that these kinds of lessons can now expand to our other schools,” Cavallaro said.

There will also be educational programs for adults, according to Wilkes. She hopes to organize various gardening workshops to show how to grow your own vegetables and make meals more nutritious.

Wilkes said that in addition to Cavallaro, Mayor Edward M. O’Brien and City Council members Michael Last and Nancy Rossi have been extremely supportive of the community garden. She’s optimistic that O’Brien will help the garden receive compost from the city composting site, since that is the kind of fertilizer that will be encouraged at the West Haven Community Garden. The garden will remain organic, Wilkes said.

O’Brien said he’s looking forward to the garden’s official opening and that the initiative is a welcome addition to West Haven.

“This is a great place for our city. I applaud Marilyn for her perseverance and thank her for her hard work in getting this community’s garden up and running,” O’Brien said.

Wilkes has been working on launching the garden for the past seven years, having worked to examine viable locations, receive advice and approval from city boards and agencies, raise money, acquire insurance, and gather a team of volunteers. The final step in getting approval involved going before the City Council for a lease agreement in March.

Later this month, Wilkes, volunteers and supporters will have a “groundbreaking” for the garden before digging up the ground, creating plots and walkways, and installing a fence and irrigation system.

She initially raised the idea of a community garden in West Haven after hearing about the “Plant a Row for the Hungry” national gardening program.

“I had no idea it would take me on such a lengthy journey,” she said. “I’m hoping it really fosters a kind of cool, diverse community. It’s a great opportunity for residents to come together, grow great food, and learn from one another.”

Plots are $30 each, or $20 each for seniors 65 and older. They will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis by April 30. For details and an application, visit http://whcommunitygarden.com or the West Haven Parks and Recreation Department.

Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114