Incubator Gardeners. Photo by Ian Christmann.
The Incubator Garden program is a collaboration between the New Haven Land Trust and New Haven Farms. New Haven Farms offers a Farm-Based Wellness Program to low-income adult patients with diet-related chronic disease risk factors. Graduates of this 16-20 week program are then offered a plot at a New Haven Land Trust community garden and hands-on, in-depth training on how to become resilient community gardeners. New Haven Land Trust staff offer these first-time gardeners support holding weekly “office hours” and workshops at each garden where incubator gardeners are placed. Staff members provide the gardeners with seeds and seedlings and coach them through planning, planting, and caring for their gardens.
In 2017 the New Haven Land Trust and New Haven Farms jointly ran a third successful year of the Incubator Garden Program. The first year of the program we had gardeners at the English Street community garden. Since then, we have expanded into the newly improved Grand Acres community garden. In 2018, based on the success of the first two years, we plan to establish a third incubator garden in Fair Haven and a fourth in The Hill.
The success of the 2017 cohort of forty-nine participants is evident in their ample harvests which they weigh and record and the many compliments we receive from visitors to the gardens. Most importantly, the success of the incubator gardeners can be measured by their joy to be out in the garden. Gardeners constantly express their fascination with growing, the therapeutic experience of being outside and working with plants and soil, and the community-building that occurs with fellow gardeners.
The program is the perfect extension to the New Haven Farms Farm-based Wellness Program, which teaches health, cooking, and introductory gardening. The incubator gardeners have access to healthy, free, home-grown vegetables and can try out recipes they learned the summer before, and their gardening knowledge improves with weekly hands-on experience.
We are extremely grateful to William and Jean Graustein for helping us initiate this project and to the lead funder of this project - the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation!
To learn more about the program, contact Esther at [email protected]