Giving Garden Frequently Asked Questions
What does the Giving Garden do?
- Is a model for sustainable, more resilient agriculture
- Provides for the regional food insecure
- Teaches the community agricultural techniques for their own properties
- Offers a venue for volunteers to participate in serving their community
What happens to the Giving Garden produce?
The vast majority of the produce from the Giving Garden goes to feed the food insecure in New London County, CT. During the growing season the refrigerated truck from the local United Way picks up the harvest at least once a week and delivers to distribution centers. Produce from the Giving Garden has higher nutrients than much of the big box store produce partly because it is fresh from garden to table and partly because the soil is so rich by virtue of garden practices.
What is “resilient agriculture”?
Resilient agriculture seeks to continually feed the soil as we grow and and feed the community without using agri-chemicals. Donations of sea weeds, marine grasses, leaves and wood chips are composted and added to feed the soil. The soil is tested and amended with minerals as needed to enhance the biologic activity of the mycorrhizal fungi. As a “no spray – no till” farm, the soil microbial communities continue to grow, storing carbon in the soil and enhancing the water retention capacity of the soil. The fungal filaments draw nutrients from the soil and deliver them to the plant root tips as they exchange them for sugars created by photosynthesis in the planted crop.
How is Coogan Farm a model for 21st century farming?
Sustainable farming builds soil health, fertility, organic matter, nutrient density, biota diversity, water holding capacity by increasing the carbon content of the soil. Conservation of top soil in farming regions has been a major problem for many years. Nature never has barren ground for six months a year. By using cover crops and mulch, the ground never has bare soil for weed seeds to find a foothold. Seaweeds are particularly good as mulch since nothing from the sea can grow on land. It also tends build up to problem levels at certain locations along the coast near human habitation.
How are we teaching the community to grow for themselves?
Craig Floyd, our Garden Manager leads classes on many aspects of sustainable agriculture during the growing season from early to late season. He and Assistant Garden Manager, Emma Sutphen organize and work with dedicated teams of volunteers to take of all the tasks to make the garden productive. Garden work can be done at any time of the year. A farmer never rests for long.
In January it is time to plan your garden. Seed starting can begin in February. Transplanting occurs in March. In April it is time to test your soil. By May it is time to plant the early crops. In June it is time to feed the soil based on those soil tests. Especially minerals that may be in short supply as well as any boost of mycorrhizal fungi to bridge between the soil minerals and the plant roots.
In July we are harvesting and planning the fall garden. In August, harvest continues as well as planting cover crops to feed your soil microbes. In September, we are saving seeds, using row covers, tunnels and caterpillar tunnels to extend the growing season. October arrives and it is time to test the soil again, add amendments as necessary and broaden your garden knowledge. In November it might be time to shop for a better garden tool or maintain the ones you have. In December you’ll have new tools to admire and the seeds you need to plant in a couple of months. Farming is a year-round activity.