A “blank slate” of grass behind the community center on Main Street in Middlefield has been transformed over the last eight months into a place where community members can gather while working to provide organic produce to locals in need.
The Durham-Middlefield Giving Garden was conceived years ago by Coginchaug Area Transition, but the group only broke ground last fall. Transition is a group that works to foster resilient local communities in the face of rising energy prices, climate uncertainty and resource depletion.
“We were just talking about what we could do on the local level to get more people involved in the community and to help feed hungry people ... and we thought we'd have fun in the process,” said Jen Huddleston, who has organized the project.
Huddleston said she would love to see different generations interacting.
“A lot of kids think that food comes from a grocery store,” she said.
The group also hopes to start holding workshops on topics like composting and organic growing.
A work day is held every Saturday from about 9 a.m. to noon and the group hopes to start one on Wednesday mornings.
Members of Girl Scout Troop 62092 have visited about eight times, once to build a raised bed.
“They were really excited,” Troop co-leader Kristy King said.
Huddleston said she hopes the four raised beds will be inviting to some seniors because they require less bending.
Recently, Durham resident Tina Gossner helped lead volunteers in putting in a pollinator patch.
“(The idea is) to try to attract as many pollinators so that they will pollinate the vegetable plants so we'll get lots of produce,” Gossner said.
Gossner said she tried to choose native plants and ones that would serve different kinds of pollinators.
There have also been talks of adding a beehive to the property, which local beekeeper Allan Poole has offered to take care of, according to Huddleston.
Produce from the Giving Garden is split between the Durham and Middlefield food banks and senior services and Middletown soup kitchens.
Sue Dorvilliers, director of senior and social services in Middlefield, said there has been an “ecstatic response” from recipients.
She said about 15 people or families have gotten lettuce and peas. Seniors at the weekly group lunch were treated to fresh salads. The food bank serves about 20 to 25 families.
The generosity from local businesses and community members has been essential from the start.
“Everyone's just been super supportive and I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the individuals that have donated,” she said.
Major donors include Winterberry Irrigation, The Community Foundation of Middlesex County, The Rockfall Foundation, The Osterman Community Foundation, The Durham Fair Foundation, Coginchaug Valley Education Foundation, Perma Treat and Eversource.
To find out more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page, “The Giving Garden of Durham/Middlefield.”