OLD LYME — Do you believe that access to healthy food is important?
Do you believe that a community should support members in need?
Do you have interest in growing food and cultivating relationships between neighbors, friends and community members?
If your answer to any or all of those questions is, ‘Yes,’ then you might wish to consider joining a discussion to plan a community food garden to support the nutritional needs of the shoreline community by providing local food pantries with fresh produce.
Jim Ward, a resident of Old Lyme since 2006 whose wife attended Old Lyme schools and taught in the district, is the initiator of the project. Asked how he came up with idea for the garden, he explained, ” While I have always been interested in gardening and landscaping, my interest in the garden was initiated while I was participating in the 2020 UCONN Master Gardening Program.’
Ward continued, “As a participant in the program you are responsible for a certain amount of outreach hours and I volunteered and continue to volunteer at the Food for All garden in Clinton.”
Noting, “The atmosphere at this very successful Food Bank garden was one of a small community,” he pointed out that there were always plenty of volunteers, who between them had, “A broad range of gardening skills, from no gardening experience to master gardeners.”
Moreover, Ward emphasized, “Everyone shared their knowledge of gardening and cooking … along with local and national political conversations.”
The catalyst for trying to start the endeavor in Old Lyme was simply, in Ward’s mind, the type of community found in Lyme-Old Lyme, which Ward felt, “Would be very supportive of this type of initiative.” He therefore set out, “to replicate the Food for All garden project.’
His plan was not only wholeheartedly supported in principle by the volunteers of the Clinton garden, but he noted that in addition, “They gave me access to their records and provided advice on the daily and annual demands of the garden.”
Finding a location for the garden in Old Lyme did not prove quite so straightforward, however. Ward said, “My wife and I researched town-owned lands defaulted to the Town, but didn’t find any that were suitable and could see why many were defaulted.”
Finally, the seed of an idea evolved, when, in Ward’s words, “We thought of Town Woods as it had water, electricity, parking, restrooms, proximity to the Senior Center and it served as a hub of activity for many residents.”
Asked what has happened since the potential site was identified, Ward explained, “Through generous cooperation of the Parks and Recreation Commission and with site approval by the Old Lyme Inland Wetlands Commission, a parcel of land behind the Field House at Town Woods Park has been secured.”
He added enthusiastically, “The location, amidst the park’s organically-managed fields, with access to water, electricity and parking, is ideal.”
The timeline for starting the project is, according to Ward, “Totally dependent on funds.” he states, “With the generous assistance of the Parks and Recreation Commission, we have cleared the large hurdles of land and water, so the next big hurdle will be the fencing for the garden.”
What is his best guess for how things will progress? Ward responds, “With that being said I would love to see a fence up, some site prep, and soil testing by this fall with a small planting next spring.”
The proposal was mentioned at the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 16, when Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal described the project as, “A really neat thing,” and “Pretty exciting.” First Selectman Timothy Griswold felt the board needed one of their members to “Prepare a checklist of what we [the board of selectmen] need to do,” and coordinate the effort between all the town boards and commissions involved. Selectman Chris Kerr agreed to take on that role.
The next step for the project is a kick-off virtual planning meeting scheduled for Monday, March 15, when, says Ward, “We will discuss organization of a non-profit, fundraising, sustainability, outreach, education and community engagement.” There are two options timewise for the meeting, 12 noon or 6 p.m.
All are welcome and he stresses, “Differing viewpoints, experience, backgrounds and ages are encouraged. No gardening experience is required.”
To register for either March 15 meeting and obtain the Zoom log-in information or raise any questions, email Ward at email@example.com.