How Westport Community Gardens Grow

Louis Weinberg has no idea how he became chair of the Westport Community Gardens.

It may have been in 2004. He lived near the new site — Long Lots School — and wanted a plot to grow vegetables and wildflowers.

He attended a meeting. He got the plot. And walked away as chair.

Transforming the rough land into a viable community garden was, he jokes, “a hard row to hoe.” And he does mean “hard”: The ground was as forgiving as concrete.

But for the 30 or so pioneer gardeners, it truly was a labor of love.

Taking a quick break at the Westport Community Gardens.

The old adage “first year it sleeps, second year it creeps, third year it leaps” held true.

The third year brought improved soil, earthworms, successful plantings and smiling faces.

It also brought additional interest. Membership tripled, to 90. Garden plots were halved to accommodate the newcomers.

WCG petitioned the town to expand. In 2010 they doubled their physical space, constructed a new fence, and welcomed nearly 100 community members to the gardens.

The Community Gardens did not just appear one day, Weinberg emphasizes. It grew out of the dedication and hard work of its members and supporters.

Those members range from families with little children to folks in their 80s. They grow fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and grasses, in all kinds of designs and configurations.

Westport Community Gardens is a true community.

“WCG is a beautiful place. It’s magical at times, and challenging as well,” Weinberg says.

“Perhaps the dichotomy of the Gardens is what we find so appealing. It is so much work, and brings us so much pleasure. Every year, intertwined so closely, are our many successes and failures. Nothing comes easy.”

Including its early growth. But former selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Shelly Kassen supported the initial effort. Parks & Rec, Public Works and the public schools have all contributed to the growth.

Kowalsky Brothers offered machinery, labor and expertise. Belta’s Farm donated compost. Gault contributed sand; Daybreak Nurseries supplied soil; A&J’s Market gave a picnic table, and Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens provided plants.

A “small fortune” was donated by Green Village Initiative. Chef Michel Nischan and his Wholesome Wave Foundation wrote a substantial check. The New England Grassroots Environmental Fund came through with a generous grant. Anthropologie held a fundraiser.

“The rewards we receive from working the land are many,” Weinberg notes. They include “time with family and friends. Time alone. Fresh food. Beautiful flowers. And the opportunity to slow down, create, experiment, sense, share and commune.”

A bit of bounty.

The site also offers quiet, calm space before and after gardening. The common space features a pergola, picnic table, shade from grape vines, a bocce court and Adirondack chairs.

There’s also a milkweed garden, wildflower garden — and Westport Community Gardens is a designated monarch butterfly way station.

Most members never leave. But moves, medical issues and other factors cause a small turnover in membership every year.

So — if you’re interested in a plot — this is your chance. Click here, then click on the “Sign Up” tab.

Work hard. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Who knows? One day you too may become chair of the Westport Community Gardens.

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