Unsung Hero #189

Once again, the Westport Farmers’ Market has transitioned from its winter indoor season to the 6-month outdoor one. Executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall celebrates by nominating a stalwart support as “06880”’s Unsung Hero of the Week. She writes:

Becoming a legend takes devotion.

When I embarked on my early days at the Farmers’ Market, I kept hearing about a legendary farmer. I heard about Sal Gilbertie’s books, his knowledge of organics, his family business in Westport, his devotion to his church, and his community involvement in Easton and Westport with agriculture.

Each time his name was mentioned, it came with a compliment and admiration.

Sal Gilbertie, in the field.

When I met Sal, we formed a friendship that has lasted over a decade. He always has a quick, warm smile and a hug for people dear to him.

Though I want to say ours is a special friendship, the reality is that Sal makes everyone feel as if they are special to him.

For me, he has supported my desire to help local farmers and small mom-and-pop businesses. When I was new and didn’t know anyone — and I wasn’t a farmer myself — he took time to introduce me to other farmers. He put his seal of approval on my efforts.

After my successful first summer at the Westport Farmers’ Market, I had an idea. One weekend that fall, Sal and I went to an agricultural event. I saw his beautiful old truck with the Gilbertie’s Herb Garden logo.

I asked, “What would you think about the Farmers’ Market renting a greenhouse at Gilbertie’s and opening a winter market?” Without hesitation he said, “Sure!”

One thing I love about farmers in general: Their word is their bond. Sal is a great example of this type of honor. His willingness to help people, to believe in them, and his desire to support his community gave us a home for the past 10 years. It is a winter event haven for many Westporters.

Speaking of Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center on Sylvan Lane: It turns 100 years old in 2022!

Year after year, this family-owned business continues to grow. They’ve watched farmland turn to houses and businesses come and go, yet they have survived (and thrived) in the same location.

Sal Gilbertie

With Sal at the helm, they reinvented their business as demands have changed. It is exciting to think about celebrating this family, this man and this business as a community.

Sal now spends most of his time in Easton. He continues to farm organically, and recently embarked on a micro-greens business at the state-of-the-art facility he created there.

I am jealous of his energy, which comes from love. He loves what he does. He loves the land. He loves his family and the business they created. With that kind of love, energy is boundless.

Sal is devoted to his faith. If you attend his church on Easter or most holidays, you’ll find the altar covered in flowers. Sal is the reason it brims with greenery. He carries truckloads of plants inside, and places each one himself.

Each morning as I head to work or get the kids to school, I see Sal’s car in the parking lot for morning Mass.

There are many more stories I could share about this man who has been such a great friend to me and the Westport Farmers’ Market. With the type of devotion Sal has, he is truly a legend – and in this case, an Unsung Hero.

One more shot of our Unsung Hero.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

14 responses to “Unsung Hero #189

  1. Sara J. Palmer

    Without a doubt, one of the finest gentlemen around!

  2. Lori, what a beautiful tribute. Thank you!

  3. Mickey Herbst

    Sal, great to see you looking well and going strong. Always loved seeing you at the Quality Printing counter back in the day. You’re a treasure.

  4. Nice tribute, Lori, Sal is a true Westport gem and inspiration to all of us who want to walk the walk of organic gardening!

  5. Michael Calise

    Dan,
    With absolutely no uncertainty this choice is the crowning achievement of your unsung hero’s presentation. BULLSEYE!!! No agenda’s here just an absolute unbridled love and care for all that surrounds him.

  6. Lou Weinberg

    Great man! Great tribute!

  7. Gilbertie’s Garden Center is a treasure for the gardening, organic health and farming community. We are so lucky in Westport to have such a store which enriches our lives. Many thanks to Sal Gilbertie for his incredible devotion to his nursery.

  8. Beautiful tribute, Lori! Thank you. Sal is an absolute treasure and his heart is as big as his legend. He’s definitely a hero in my book!

  9. Kenny Gilbertie

    Hey, I know that guy! I am related to him too.

  10. I GO BACK TO THE DAYS WHEN SAL’S MOM, THERESA, LIVED ON THE PREMISES. DON’T KNOW IF THAT’S WHERE SALE GREW UP. I AGREE WITH ALL OF THE ABOVE KUDOS. SAL IS CERTAINLY AN UNSUNG HERO. HI SAL. WHEN I’VE BEEN AT THE NURSERY YOU WERE SADLY MISSING

  11. Chuck Greenlee

    A true class act and a wonderful host to our Ys Men Garden Club over many years. An amazing switch to produce from virtually all annual and perennial flowers at the mammoth Easton greenhouse location!

  12. Ginny Gilbertie Williams

    What a wonderful tribute! I remember running through the greenhouses as a little girl and helping my dad deliver Easter flowers touring the holiday rush. Sal is everything you say and I’m proud to call him my cousin! Much love to you, Sal and Marie!

  13. Cathy Talmadge

    What a beautiful and well deserved tribute. I’d like to add that Sal was and continues to be an incredible resource for the Wakeman Town Farm. In the early days he was a true mentor to the Aitkenheads, our first farm stewards, as well as the rest of the Committee. His strength and courage over the years is a testament to his faith and creativity.

  14. Loved reading this tribute. I met Sal years ago at the Westport Arts Center for an outdoor patio talk. Never forgot him and the agricultural history of Westport and Gilberties that he shared with all of us that day. I suggest that Westporters go to Gilberties and support this amazing garden center we have in our backyard. We are so lucky to still have them. When I see my iris, herbs, summer vegetables (and even items from their gift shop), I feel grateful to have supported such a deserving business.

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