From Broken Glass to Greener Grass at Fairgate Farm
There was a time when the glass-strewn, dismal half-acre lot at 133 Stillwater Avenue, on Stamford’s West Side, could have been a poster child for urban decay. Now that same urban lot is entering its second season as Fairgate Farm, an outstanding model of transformation on many different levels. Soon to be expanded, the Farm can count among its many successes the regeneration of a neighborhood, the hands-on education of local youth, and the greening of a community’s dinner plates.
The Farm is based on principles of “food justice,” the idea that everyone has a right to quality food in a way that is community controlled, environmentally sustainable and socially just. Having triumphed in its initial 2011 season, Fairgate Farm is also an unusually fine example of true community gardening, where, instead of plots belonging to individual families, all who sow the seeds and enrich the soil enjoy the delicious harvest. The Farm’s 2011 harvest totaled an impressive 800 pounds, and its first year also saw the Farm’s first Harvest Festival as well as initial deliveries of produce to Stamford Hospital.
Fairgate Farm is the result of a collaboration that brought together Charter Oak Communities (formerly the Stamford Housing Authority), Stamford Hospital, and such agencies as the Boys & Girls Club. Inspired by a local survey urging the Farm to produce more, plans include adding acreage, vertical trellises and other vertical systems, a greenhouse, additional seedling capacity and raised beds, and increasing the composting effort. An existing indoor space will be outfitted with a hydroponic growing system for the production of microgreens and lettuce year-round.
The Farm has partnered with Stamford Hospital and Charter Oak Communities as part of the Vita Health and Wellness District, providing produce to their cafeteria and supplementing a new Farmers Market for the hospital. The Farm is also expanding its partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford to integrate into the Club’s Healthy Habits national initiative, and both will offer programs providing outdoor learning tied in with educational and cooking activities. The farm has also begun plans to implement a rain water collection system to help irrigate the plants. Each Farm visit allows the children to participate in hands-on investigative learning, to take part in observational activities, and to perform the farm work necessary to grow the plants under their care.
Fairgate Farm is also looking to increase its exposure to include more community youth centers and schools, and will join them in providing fruit and vegetable waste for the Farm’s composting operation as a real-life illustration of the growing cycle.
One very exciting plan is for the Farm to work with local chefs and local youth in the development of meals using Farm produce. As the new Fairgate Farm season blooms for the second year, it’s clear that Farm Manager Bill Callion’s vision is coming to fruition as well:
“We want Fairgate Farm to be a learning laboratory for the community.”
Fairgate Farm welcomes volunteers and donations to help support ongoing operations and programs. For those interested, call Bill Callion at 203.967.7280. Visit Fairgate Farm on Facebook for more information.