Former mayor Fred Allyn Jr. has an idea that involves Ledyard’s farmland, community gardening and food security and he invited Patrick Kelley and David Fairman of the Eastern Connecticut Community Gardens Association to promote the idea at the Ledyard Rotary meeting Thursday.
“When I found out there were about 150 people (in Ledyard) in pre-foreclosure, I thought a large community garden could generate some revenue that could be a help to people,” Allyn said.
Allyn said there are approximately 150 acres of town-owned farmland commonly known as the old Clark Farm on Colonel Ledyard Highway and land opposite Preston Park on Route 2, and both would be ideal for community gardens.
The property has been used for community gardens in the past, according to Allyn, who said he remembers seeing patients from the Norwich State Hospital working in the fields years ago.
Currently, some of the farmland is leased to one farmer but much of it goes unused, according to Allyn. He said the land should be used for a community garden before it gets developed.
“We need to protect that farmland for future use,” Allyn said. “The day is going to come when we wish we had more control over our own food supply.”
Why install a community garden?
Community gardens are plots or beds used to raise anything from vegetables to flowers and can be claimed or bought by people who wish to grow something.
Kelley and Fairman, who help groups begin community gardens, said that the gardens build a sense of community, improve nutritional options, provide exercise and can be used to raise revenue and keep the dollar local.
“We want to plant seeds and nurture those seeds and see what grows,” said Kelley of introducing community gardens to groups.
Kelley said they work with municipalities and local farmers to provide compost and manure to the community gardens. They also help connect groups with volunteers and master gardeners and provide information and assistance for groups willing to take on the project.
“We want to turn people on to learn about soil nutrition, compost and rainwater,” he said of a sustainable garden. The consultants encourage earth-friendly gardening that uses natural pest-control methods instead of pesticides.
They said the typical plot or raised garden bed is 4’ x 8’ but can be made to fit any size and accommodate most people.
“We want to make sure anyone in town has the opportunity to garden, including (people in) daycare and senior housing.”
Kelley and Fairman have helped install gardens all over the county and called Ledyard the “agricultural capitol of New London County.”
“We kind of just get going,” said Kelley of the process. He said the materials are accessible and inexpensive and the up-front investment pays for itself soon enough.
“In the end, we need to assign a higher value to agricultural land,” said Allyn.
Other plans for the land
Patch reported in October that the girls softball league is requested space on the Clark farm property to build a softball field, saying that the field at the middle school is inadequate. The proposal was denied but may be presented again.