Group hopes to create community garden in Warren on ‘land that is crying out to be put to good use’

Wasley Farm in Warren

Wasley Farm in Warren

Nathalie Brodhead / Contributed photo

WARREN — To share, to grow, to learn, to connect: Those are just some reasons why a group of residents want to create a community garden in town.

The group, Warren Community Garden @ Wasley Farm, is made up of four women — Kathy Newton, Kathy Engle-Dulac, Nathalie Brodhead and Elizabeth Chandler — who would like to create the garden on the Wasley Farm property.

The 100-acre farm on Cornwall Road was purchased by the town 10 years ago, and now is open space.

The land in question is on three separate parcels that would be divided into smaller plots that could be rented by residents to create their own gardens. There also would be a larger plot for a communal garden from which all produce could be donated.

The garden would be maintained and supported by volunteers. If given the green light, the group will seek donations of materials and funds, with money used to purchase materials for raised beds, water barrels and other farm and garden items.

At a recent town meeting, in a paper ballot, the community garden received overwhelming approval by a vote of 68-27.

The group plans to ask the town at the next Board of Selectmen meeting to lease the three sections of land to the Warren Land Trust, which would be its sponsor.

The date of the meeting, which will be in person and on Zoom, has not been announced yet. Once it is, it will be on the town website, warrenct.org.

“Our plan would be to complete the ground preparation for the garden so that planting can begin in the spring of 2022,” Engle-Dulac said.

The idea

In developing the idea for a community garden, the group looked to community gardens in neighboring towns.

“We started with the Judea Garden in Washington and we’ve branched out to the Litchfield Community Garden, Goshen Garden and Kent Community Garden,” Newton said. “There is a lot of help out there and a lot of excitement and passion about community gardens.”

Wasley Farm was chosen as a site for a community garden because the late Barbara Wasley was “a driving force in pulling people together” and was involved in many efforts in town, Engle-Dulac said.

Data was collected over summer from residents on potential uses for the Wasley Farm property. Out of 102 responses, roughly 80 wanted the property to be maintained as a town-owned parcel, combining multiple uses such as recreation, agriculture, open space and a community garden.

The garden would be open and accessible anytime, to accommodate people’s schedules. Group members hope to get assistance from everyone from children to seniors.

The group envisions a wide variety of foods growing in a community garden.

“Squashes are a favorite, as is corn in small amounts. Tomatoes and beans are almost a given, as are lettuces in the early seasons,” Engle-Dulac said. “There is real potential for that space to grow some fabulous fruits like strawberries or watermelons or cantaloupes, as well as root veggies like carrots, potatoes, beets, garlic and onions.”

In response to concerns that people may take produce from other people’s beds, Engle-Dulac, who coordinates a network of community gardens across the state, said setting up free beds around the outside of the garden fence would help with that issue.

‘A place to gather’

Brodhead said society could benefit from a community garden now more than ever.

“Since the pandemic, more people are working from home and isolated from each other,” she said, adding that aside from the town’s general store, there’s no community space where residents can go to socialize.

“Here, in a very rural town like Warren where we don’t have any place to gather, this can be a place where anybody can go — of any age,” said Brodhead, who has lived in Warren for 20 years.

Since the idea for a community garden was made public, she said there has been much interest and support for one, including from new families in town.

“Many people have approached us, saying they don’t know anything about gardening and would love to learn,” Brodhead said.

Chandler, who is vice president of the Warren Land Trust, said the Land Trust often is thought of as an entity that tries to preserve land, “but there is a more important aspect of it — it’s taking care of the land, and community outreach.”

She said supporting a community garden in town “is a no-brainer for the Land Trust because there’s nothing more beautiful than a community garden. The Land Trust will be doing what it can to support the garden and help make it successful.”

If the project gets the Board of Selectmen’s approval, group members hope to get onto the property soon to begin testing the soil, discussing the size of the garden plots and measuring the area.

Additionally, they hope to collect a list of names of those interested in getting a plot, and hold community forums to provide more information on specifics.

“We’d like to eventually offer gardening classes and get assistance from a master gardener,” said Brodhead, adding that the group welcomes input from anyone with gardening expertise.

Newton said the group hopes to have a waiting list for beds, and to be able to enlarge the garden in the future.

“This project utilizes land that is crying out to be put to good use for the community,” Brodhead said.

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