NEW LONDON, Conn., Dec. 14 The Thames Valley Council for Community Action (TVCCA) today launched a comprehensive network of experts to help New London County neighborhoods establish productive community gardens. The group, Community Harvest Network (CHN) of New London, combines area professionals, collaborators, and volunteers to assist neighborhoods, schools, agencies and individuals interested in growing, storing and preparing their own local, fresh food.
Interest in community gardens has accelerated in recent years as they provide access to and reduce costs associated with fresh, locally-grown produce, and increase food security. It has also been shown that violence decreases in many places where community gardening activity is high.
CHN, with charter members F.R.E.S.H. (Food: Resources, Education, Security, Health), Ledge Light Health District, and the New London Group, among many others, has set a goal of establishing 90 gardens in the county over the next five years. The network provides communities with year-round technical, organizational, training and fundraising support. It also expects the gardens to create job opportunities in areas from fresh food processing, cooking and storage and preservation methods to marketing, education, communications, and fundraising.
The New London Group also operates Thames Valley Local Produce, which distributes local produce and provides consulting services to farmers, processors and consumers to increase the quantity and quality of local food.
Community gardens vary widely in design but have four basic elements: soil, plants, gardeners and organization. CHN helps community gardeners from the outset with site evaluation and preparation, tools and training, construction, composting and use of off-site greenhouses for extended season growing. Drawing from existing models and resources, CHN offers best-practices in education, communication, market-trading with other gardens, record-keeping and data interpretation.
"Community gardens encourage an urban community's food security, allowing citizens to grow their own nutritious food, donate what they have grown, and/or market their products, whether plants, preserves or new gardening supplies," said Dave Fairman, CHN program coordinator. "The gardens bring gardening communities closer to the source of their food, promote healthy outdoor neighborhood activity, and break down modern urban alienation by creating a social community."
CHN has projects underway in New London County towns. Interested communities can call (860) 857-1269 or email CommunityHarvestNetwork@gmail.com for more information. Also visit http://www.tvcca.org, http://www.freshnewlondon.org, or http://www.ledgelighthd.org