The Giving Garden at Coogan Farm in 2016 grew more than 6 tons of fresh vegetables, all of which was donated to the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center for distribution via its mobile food pantries. Nearly 30,000 residents of New London County received the produce, according to the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut.
In its third season, the garden quadrupled its production. In 2015, the Garden yielded 3,500 pounds of vegetables. In 2014, just over 1 ton was harvested.
The Giving Garden is owned and operated by the Denison Pequotsepos/Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center. It was launched in 2014 when the Nature Center took ownership of the last 45 acres of the Coogan Farm, one of the oldest farms in eastern Connecticut. The garden was started with funding from the Robert G. Youngs Family Foundation, and the Nature Center signed a four-year agreement with the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut to donate the produce.
Coogan Farm Manager Craig Floyd runs the garden with a corps of volunteers who have logged more than 3,700 hours there this year. Groups from area churches, businesses, corporations, civic groups, as well as individuals from across the region, come to the garden regularly to pitch in. In its first two years the garden was a seasonal endeavor, but in late 2015, a hoop house was donated and installed, ensuring year-round crop production.
“The energy and contagious passion for farming of our Giving Garden manager, Craig Floyd, helped us exceed all expectations,” said Maggie Jones, executive director of the Denison Pequotsepos/Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center. “Sustainable agriculture, connecting to our agrarian roots and culture through food production, meshes nicely with the Nature Center’s mission: ‘to inspire and understanding of the natural world and ourselves as a part of it- past, present and future.’ It’s all about interconnections, and growing crops is a great way for us to connect people to the land as the source of the food we need to survive – the healthy planet, healthy people connection.
“Soil is the most vital renewable resource on the planet, and in our garden volunteers, students and visitors learn about how we can be good stewards of the earth through food production and building healthy soil,” Jones said. “I am amazed at the numbers of volunteers that help in the garden, daily and weekly, and on call for special projects. This extraordinary commitment from ordinary people continues to make all the difference. Many hands make light work, whether sifting soil, planting, weeding or picking.
“Our little garden continues to have a huge impact, helping to improve food security for southeastern Connecticut families, including the families of children we reach through our school outreach programs. There is so much potential here at the Nature Center’s Giving Garden at Coogan Farm!”
Our little garden continues to have a huge impact, helping to improve food security for southeastern CT families, including the families of children we reach through our school outreach programs. There is so much potential here at the Nature Center’s Giving Garden at Coogan Farm!”
The United Way of Southeastern Connecticut estimates 1 in 5 children locally suffers from food insecurity. Nearly 10,000 children received Giving Garden vegetables this year.
“The Giving Garden project has evolved into a model program that is in service to food insecurity in the region,” said Virginia L. Mason, president & CEO of the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, which estimates that 1 in 5 children suffers from food insecurity. Food Insecurity means that a child has times of episodic hunger during a month, when family resources run low.
“The harvest from the Giving Garden is distributed by a Mobile Food Pantry through 10 regional deployments,” Mason said. “The commitment of the Nature Center was in response to the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center and its need to provide fresh, nutritious, health-giving foods. The community has been given a gift by the development of the Coogan Farm Giving Garden. It is a place of growing, and learning. Its farm manager is an inspiration who brings farming to life for others. United Way thanks the Nature Center and the Giving Garden.”
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