The Nature Center’s Giving Garden at Coogan Farm set its most ambitious goal yet this year—to grow 20,022 pounds of fresh and nutritious produce to benefit the food insecure across New London County.
As of the Tuesday, November 8 harvest, the garden has yielded well over the initial goal of 20,022. “As we move into this Thanksgiving season, we are so grateful for our volunteers and supporters who have enabled us to serve the community with compassion through our Giving Garden. Acts such as these give us hope that we can have a positive impact on the earth,” says Executive Director Davnet Conway.
And the season isn’t over yet! This is the first year that the Giving Garden has grown Eastham turnips, a distinct variety of turnips known for their creamy white flesh, purple tops, large size and a pleasing, sweet taste. Grown for generations on Cape Cod in the sandy, well drained soil of Eastham and surrounding towns, seeds for the variety were saved by an Eastham farmer after the agricultural focus of the region had moved on to tourism in the 1900s. Today the Eastham turnip is celebrated on Cape Cod with a November festival bearing its name and a resurgence in popularity, particularly at New England Thanksgiving tables. Turnips, popular in some Latin American recipes, are also one of the most requested produce crops from customers of the Gemma E. Moran Food Center, reports Giving Garden Assistant Farm Manager Koralee Lawrence.
The team at the Giving Garden looks forward to a spectacular harvest of the basketball-sized Eastham turnips on Tuesday, November 15 from 7-9:30 am. Members of the media are invited to attend. Farm Manager Craig Floyd estimates the average weight of the Eastham turnips may be upwards of 20 pounds each, adding hundreds of pounds to the year-end total for the garden.
In 2014, the first year, the Giving Garden produced just over one ton of food. In 2021, the Garden produced more than 15,000 pounds of food, all donated to the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center, which distributes food to 63 programs that serve 91 feeding sites across New London County. The total pounds of produce donated since 2014 by the Giving Garden exceeded 100,000 pounds earlier this season, with a conservative retail value of more than $250,000.
The Giving Garden succeeds through the expert management of Farm Manager Craig Floyd, who will pass the role onto Assistant Farm Manager Koralee Lawrence in March. Floyd notes that the Giving Garden’s tremendous output and exceptional nutrient content is attributed to sustainable, climate-smart techniques of regenerative gardening, including soil analysis, regular feeding and enrichment, companion planting, no tilling and diverse crop plantings.
Through the Nature Center and sponsored by ECCGA (Eastern Connecticut Community Garden Association) with help from regional libraries, Farmer Craig teaches free monthly online classes on the topic of regenerative gardening. To register for any of the monthly classes, go to dpnc.org/gardenprograms.