Fodor Farm in the news again

From todays Norwalk/Stamford Advocate: Living off the land: High food prices spur growth in community gardens -I dont necessarily agree that this is the main reason, but its a contributor.

 

NORWALK – During World Wars I and II, Americans were asked to plant their own fruits and vegetables so farmers could concentrate on producing crops for the military.

They were called victory gardens.

Now gas prices, not war, are behind an increasing interest in home-grown food.

Sharply rising fuel prices have hiked delivery costs, making food more expensive. Food prices are expected to continue to rise 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An annual survey by the National Gardening Association showed that, last year, household spending on vegetable plants rose 21 percent and spending on herbs rose 45 percent.

George Ball, owner of the W. Atlee Burpee Co., said company sales of vegetable seeds and plants are up 40 percent compared with last year.

Part of the reason is that recent health scares, such as salmonella-tainted tomatoes, have more people out in the garden, Ball said. And Baby Boomers are entering their prime gardening years. But fuel prices are the biggest reason for the increase, Ball said.

“There’s health and quality of life and last but not least – it’s like a perfect storm – is the economic reason,” Ball said. “Any of these alone would cause a rise but, altogether, it’s a spike.”

Community gardens, too, are popular.

When a new one opened for Norwalk residents this spring, with plots for $5 each, all 225 were snapped up in minutes. The 1.8-acre garden at Fodor Farm on Flax Hill Road offers water, garden tools and compost for free.

More than 100 people are on a waiting list, so the city plans to expand the garden by 3 acres, replant the original orchards and restore the 1806 farmhouse, parks director Michael Mocciae said.

“We’re offering ideal conditions. We’re giving them everything but God’s work,” Mocciae said.

All 48 plots at Westport Community Garden, now in its third year, were taken this year, and there’s a waiting list, co-chairwoman Mary Ann West said. There are 80 such gardens statewide, said Cordalie Benoit, president of the Connecticut Community Garden Association. “Most community gardens have seen an increase in participation,” Benoit said. “It’s a combination of several things. One is people are spending less time idling in their cars. The cost of food has gone up and people are beginning to be aware of local food, beginning to be wary of the national food scene. And I think farmers’ markets make them aware of their capacity to grow things, because they see what people are able to grow nearby.”

Financed with a $98,000 state grant, Norwalk’s Fodor Farm Community Garden was established to promote healthy eating and exercise. Some gardeners have found it also has had a nice impact on their wallets.

“There’s no bad side of a community garden, and then the bonus is the savings on organic produce, too,” said Ralph Senna, the caretaker.

Certified horticulturist Shira Friedman consulted with the city on the community garden, where her family has a plot.

“When we opened registration, we were hearing from a lot of people that they wanted to buy organic produce for their family but felt the cost is so high compared to conventional grocery stores,” Friedman said.

The garden also is intended to help residents of nearby South Norwalk, home to five public and low-income housing complexes. Thirty percent of the plots were reserved for them.

The Antoine family, who moved from Haiti to the United States in 2000 and now live in the Washington Village public housing complex, share a plot with their former neighbor.

Pierre Antoine Jr., 15, said his family lived off the sugar cane, mangos and plantains they grow in Haiti. Here, growing their own food helps them live more self-sufficiently, he said.

“We don’t have to go shopping for salads because we have lettuce and carrots in the garden,” he said.

Saving money isn’t every gardener’s primary motivation. Louis Weinberg, co-chairman of Westport’s community garden and a science teacher at West Rocks Middle School in Norwalk, likes to control use of chemicals and pesticides, which grocery store shopping cannot guarantee.

“What you do get is knowing nobody’s touched that food except for you,” Weinberg said.

Shannan DiCesare, who weeded while her 4-year-old daughter, Abby, tended her strawberry patch, said that brings her peace of mind.

“Strawberries have some of the most pesticides unless you buy organic, which is super expensive,” DiCesare said.

Circumstances have changed, but community gardens replicate the feeling of camaraderie that victory gardens inspired decades ago, said Patrick Ward, whose family planted vegetables in their yard in Cleveland during World War II.

“I remember the carrots, how bad they were. But we had our little patch of victory garden,” the Norwalk man said. “You did it because your neighbors did it, because it was the right thing to do, and people are doing that in these community gardens now.”

 

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 2

    lindsayg said,

    Thanks!


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