Cou­ple pro­poses kids gar­den to tout healthy eat­ing

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Mill Re­porter Jeff Mill cov­ers East Hamp­ton, Port­land and Cromwell. Con­tact him at jeff.mill@hearst­medi­act.com.

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.”

File photo

Chil­dren plant a com­mu­nity gar­den.

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