I have no idea when or how I became Chairman of the Westport Community Gardens (WCG). I believe it was many years ago, perhaps in 2004. I attended a meeting of the new incarnation of the WGC to see if I could get a plot to tend. I lived near the new site appropriated by the town and I wanted to grow vegetables and wildflowers. Not only did I secure a plot at that meeting, I walked away as the new Chairman. After the meeting, as I was walking back to my car in the parking lot, I remember looking back and wondering what had just happened. Oh well, whaddayagonnado?
Transforming the new site into a viable community garden was, as they say, a hard row to hoe. Our first year of "gardening" was more like working construction as the ground was as forgiving as concrete. If my memory serves me correctly, we used jackhammers to get holes in the soil deep enough for a tomato plant to take root. For the 30 or so gardeners who pioneered the new site, it was truly a labor of love. Fortunately, the old adage "first year it sleeps, second-year it creeps, third year it leaps" held true.
The third year at our new site brought improved soil, earthworms, successful plantings and smiling faces. It also brought additional interest in the garden. And so our membership grew from 30 to 60 gardeners. Garden plots were halved in size to accommodate the newcomers. Due to continued demand and increased membership, WCG petitioned the town to physically expand our site. In 2010, we doubled our physical space, constructed a new fence and welcomed nearly 100 members of our community to the gardens.
WCG is a beautiful place, magical at times and challenging as well. Perhaps the dichotomy of the Gardens is what I find so appealing. It is so much work and brings us so much pleasure. Every year, intertwined so closely, are our myriad successes and failures.
Nothing comes easy. The rewards that we receive from working the land are many… time with family, friends and time alone; fresh food, beautiful flowers and the opportunity is slow down, create, experiment, sense, share and commune.
The WCG did not just happen to appear one day. This property grew out of the dedication and hard work of its members. We are guided by a steering committee that meets and establishes the framework by which we operate.
And true to "community" form, we have been generously assisted by the contributions of many partners. Support from the Town of Westport has been invaluable. Former First Selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Selectwoman Shelly Kassen lent their support to our effort. Stuart Mccarthy, former director of Westport Department of Parks and Recreation and his Superintendent, Tim Burke, provided support and guidance. Steven Edwards, Director of the Westport Department of Public Works and his staff have provided guidance and manpower since day one.
Let me be very clear about this… the development of the WCG at its current location and it's consequent expansion doesn't happen without the herculean effort of Jay and Daryl Kowalski and their company, Kowalsky Brothers, Inc. Without their machinery, labor and expertise, this garden did not spring to life as quickly as it did. Belta's Farm donated compost (thanks Greg and thanks to your most generous father James). Gault, Inc. contributed sand (thanks Sam), Daybreak Nurseries supplied soil, A and J's Farm Market gave us a picnic table (thanks Al) and Gilbertie's herb gardens provided plants (thanks Sal).
Financially, a small fortune was donated by the Green Village Initiative, headed by Dan Levinson. Chef Michel Nischan and his Wholesome Wave Foundation wrote us a substantial check to help us get started. The New England Grassroots Environmental Fund based in Montpelier, Vermont came through a generous grant when we needed to expand. Anthropology held a fundraiser on our behalf as well.
Because of the combined efforts of these people and organizations, we now have a community garden with over 100 members who share the delights of gardening.
How fortunate are we? Very.
Louis Weinberg, Chairman
Westport Community Gardens
February 25, 2016