“06880” Podcast: Lou Weinberg

For nearly 2 decades, Lou Weinberg has helped “grow” the Westport Community Gardens.

Each year, over 100 residents — 90-year-olds, young kids, and everyone in between — raise vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs on land just south of Long Lots Elementary School.

It’s a magical place. Now it’s ringed by the Long Lots Preserve — a home for native plants and wildlife, and an important part of the Fairfield County’s pollinator pathway.

This summer though, the Gardens and Preserve are threatened by possible renovation of the school.

The other day at the Westport Library, I spoke with Lou about his projects.

Quietly but with urgent passion, he talked about what he does, why he does it, and why it’s crucially important: for our town today, and the generations that will follow.

Click below for our “ground-breaking” conversation.

15 responses to ““06880” Podcast: Lou Weinberg

  1. Josh & Emily Prince

    Dan, your coverage of the Westport Community Garden issue has been incredibly thoughtful and generous. It’s actually hard to imagine that such a town jewel—ecologically and environmentally important, educationally valuable, and beloved (and used!) by hundreds of intergenerational town residents—is even being considered for removal. Credit to Lou Weinberg for his tireless stewardship of this remarkable green space, and thank you for lending your platform and journalistic voice to the discussion. Thera HAS to be a way for an awesome new Long Lots School AND the Westport Community Garden to grow together. As Long Lots neighbors, parents, and members of the Garden, we hope the School Building Committee can find a way.

  2. As Westport gets busier, louder and more crowded with each passing year, there is still one place to go where all is quiet, apart from the songs of birds and the humming of bees, punctuated here and there by conversations from 120 family members and guests of the Westport Community Garden. It is a thriving community where members meet to play bocce ball, break bread under the pergola, trade gardening tips and support those in need through Grow A Row. Although there is a beautiful hush that drapes over the Garden, soothing all souls, it is brimming with life everywhere you look. It truly is a green gem, and an incredible learning asset for the kids next door at Long Lots Elementary School. More and more towns are integrating green spaces and gardens with schools to improve the mental health of children and to not just teach but to show how our ecosystems work. I can’t thank Dan Woog and Lou Weinberg enough for their dedication in highlighting that the Long Lots Elementary School and Westport Community Garden/Preserves both win by growing together.

    • Bill Humphrey

      Great interview Dan. Thanks for highlighting the fate of the garden. There has to be way for the Long Lots School and the Westport Community Garden to grow together.

  3. Hello Dan, great interview with Lou Weinberg — thank you for supporting our worthwhile cause.
    My very best, Nick Mancini.

  4. Joseph Mackiewicz

    Thank you, Dan, for giving Lou the opportunity to describe the many benefits Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve bring to our town. It seems obvious that these are treasures with substantial environmental, educational and charitable benefits and yet, reportedly, only 3 redevelopment alternatives are under review, each of which would destroy the Gardens and Preserve. Considering the large footprint covered by the existing school, the school parking lots and the playing fields, one wonders why there is no alternative in which the Gardens and Preserve survive to flourish and grow with New Long Lots School.

  5. As a fellow Westport Community Gardener, I hope the Gardens and Long Lots Elementary School can grow together. I was introduced to the Gardens in 2011, and I have struggled to grow my crops every year.
    It’s an annual rite of passage, when I gather my crops in October to pass out to those in Westport, Fairfield County and beyond. It’s a labor of love for my 82 year old mother, who disburses the spaghetti squash to the elderly community she connects with. I’ve seen the generosity of my fellow gardeners, who have donated their crops tirelessly to those in need.
    Multi-generational families enjoy the beauty and bounty of these Gardens. I hope present and future families can continue to do so. The Gardens are an oasis that shows the community the circle of life year in and year out. Please don’t extinguish the hope of so many when there are solutions out there.

  6. Alison Freeland

    Today’s headline from the NYT about community gardens in the Bronx: “Lawmakers in Albany voted to designate community gardens statewide as crucial to the urban environment, especially in the fight against climate change. The bill awaits the governor’s signature, but the role of these gardens stretches back decades.” True, the article is about urban community gardens, but the benefits cited are universal.

  7. Michael Beebe

    A great interview with Lou — thanks for sharing it! Lou’s passion and commitment to the Garden, the Preserve and the environment is extraordinary. It is also shared by 120 other current members of the Garden, and hundreds more Westport residents.

    This cause is so important, and it seems that at every level of the town’s decision making, the environmental impact of destroying this natural oasis has been ignored, or excluded as a criteria. It is hard to understand how that is acceptable in a world where we see evidence of drastic climate change all around us!

    Preserve the Garden! Protect the Preserve! Invest in our environment!

    • Richard Fogel

      I agree Michael. But Dans rules. 06890 environment is affected by our national policy makers. We cannot be insulated from the decisions of national policymakers. Many like to think we are an 06880 bubble. That is fantasy

  8. Toni Simonetti

    Excellent discussion of the multifaceted reasons for embracing the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve. They are irreplaceable jewels in our town. From this gardener and many more, we are so grateful to Dan Woog for his help in bringing this issue front and center.

  9. The interview was great, Dan! The westport community Garden is truly a magical place that differentiates Westport from other parts of Fairfield County. On par with community gardens across the globe Lou has fostered a place of inclusion and beauty. Hoping Westport recognizes the value and seeks to keep them as is while rebuilding Long Lots Elementary School.

  10. Amy Unikewicz

    Thank you for this excellent interview, Dan. No one can deny Lou’s passion and commitment for saving the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve, and he truly speaks for all the members. It would be an immeasurable loss to destroy this site—for the environment and local ecosystem, for the Town of Westport, for the gardeners and their families, and for the greater community who benefit from the Gardens and Preserve including guests, neighbors, and recipients of the fresh produce donated through Grow-A-Row.

    We are fortunate to have many thoughtful, intelligent individuals who make up our Town bodies, committees, and leadership in Westport—surely they can craft a plan that allows the School, Gardens and Preserve to grow together. Especially for such a vibrant, thriving, and beloved Town asset.

  11. One of my fondest memories growing up in Westport was going to the community gardens (now Bedford Middle School) with my Mom. Planting, weeding, watering, watching our garden and dozens of others grow. Eating fresh vegetables and having pumpkins that we grew ready on Halloween. This is what community is about. To me, that is Westport. Let’s not lose another jewel in this era of 8-30g and unremitting traffic. There has to be a creative way to integrate the gardens into the curriculum so others get to experience what I did. It should be part of the solution, not a victim of it. We are better than this.

  12. Kathleen Kiley

    Lou has been a steadfast leader to turn this piece of land into a model of biodiversity – an asset to the community. In a age between nature vs. man. I hope nature gets a reprieve. Thank you Dan for your coverage of this important issue.

  13. Both the Westport community gardens and the Westport school systems are wonderful examples of why Westport is a special place. They both weave a close community fabric and build relationships that makes Westport a place to grow and flourish. I hope every effort can be extended to preserve both of these tremendous community assets.

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