Couple proposes kids garden to tout healthy eating
CROMWELL — The couple responsible for establishing the Cromwell Farmers Market is now proposing to establish a children’s community garden.
Heather and Jeff Polke came before the Town Council last week to pitch their idea of establishing the children’s garden on a portion of the Hoffman Farm. Doing so, the Polkes said, would encourage a sense of adventure among young people while also helping to instill in them the concept of farm-to-table food.
The council, minus Councilor Edward Wenners, who was absent, responded positively to the proposal from the Polkes. Heather Polke, who serves as the market manager for the farmers market, said her original idea was to establish the garden on the grounds of the Woodside Intermediate School.
However, the school did not have a reliable source of water for the site she had chosen, Heather Polke said. So she turned attention to the Hoffman Farm.
There is a community garden on the grounds of the farm property, which the town bought in January 2001. The children's garden would be separate from that garden and would be run by children and their parents, Heather Polke told the council.
She and her husband favored raised beds, Heather Polke said, explaining they would be easier for the children to reach into. She suggested the garden should include horse troughs for the children to use to grow a variety of vegetables.
The vegetables could be used in school cafeterias as part of an effort to encourage healthy eating, she said. Alternatively, the vegetables could be sold from a booth at the farmers market with any leftovers being donated to the Cromwell Food Bank, she told the council.
The money the children raise by selling vegetables would be plowed back into the garden for the next growing season, Heather Polke said.
The farmer’s market runs from the first week of June to the end of September.
“This is just an awesome thing for kids,” Heather Polke said. Her proposal is “a way to pull people out of the homes and get them away from their Xboxes.”
The garden would provide a great way for children to watch the growth cycle of their food while also providing a lesson in “giving back to the community,” Heather Polke said. “We want to do this across the district, from the older kids to the younger kids.”
While the Polkes provided the idea, Heather Polke said she has arranged for Liberty Bank to sponsor the project.
Jeff Polke, who described Liberty’s involvement as “a very generous support,” said he envisions two 4by-8-foot raised garden beds.
“If you wanted to, you could get the schools to build the beds,” he said.
“This is a great thing for kids to get involved in,” Deputy Mayor Richard R. Newton said. However, Newton said, “The best place to do this is at school. There’s not a lot of level land at Hoffman Farms.”
“I think this is a wonderful project,” Mayor Enzo Faienza said. “This will encourage healthy eating habits and a sense of entrepreneurship.”
The council authorized Town Manager Anthony J. Salvatore to work with the Polkes to develop the proposal. In the meantime, Faienza told the Polkes, “Thank you for all you do for our town.”
Children plant a community garden.