ACGA Annual Conference Hartford, CT 2017 Tours

I. Exploring and Learning from Colchester’s Vibrant Agricultural Community

Colchester, Connecticut


Colchester has a rich agricultural history and is still a town of agricultural pursuits, gardening/environmental interests, and has a strong sense of community. Our tour will showcase some of these agricultural and volunteer endeavors:

  • Colchester’s Giving Garden grows and donates produce to help those in need (2016: 1300 lbs on a 40’x 40’ plot)
  • Bacon Academy’s school garden, Academy Acres, started with Outdoor Edible School Garden Mini-Grants (2015,2016) and in its first year produced 400 lbs of produce. Learn more about how two students spearheaded the Colchester Farm to School project in conjunction with the National Farm to School Network and local Agriculture Commission and other students helped develop enrichment programs for younger students.
  • With pollinators aiding 35 percent of the world’s crop production, we’ll visit a new educational butterfly-pollinator garden and learn about Colchester being a Community Wildlife Habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation (1stin CT/ 36th in U.S.).  Nearby, see Colchester’s  StoryWalkTM , a unique literacy initiative to get young children outdoors reading themed-books about nature, wildlife and gardening; Anne Ferguson of  Montpelier, VT created the first StoryWalkTM
  • Organic farm will explain its no till practices, production of nutrient-dense produce and forest-fed pigs,  an environmentally sustainable and humane way to raise pork
  • On this farm, raw farmstead cheese is made by hand from the delicious milk of Jersey cows; the visit will include a tasting of this delicious cheese.
  • A Farm to Table lunch will served in a local historic church (1848) with many ingredients from local farms prepared by volunteers and members of the Colchester Free Lunch Program.  You’ll have an opportunity to talk with volunteers from the tour stops and others involved with open space preservation, the local Farmers’ Market, and more.
  • Our tour goes on to a private farm focused on family food production, with fruit trees including espalier – apple and pear trees,, vegetables, and small fruits, nut trees and herbs.
  • Your visit will end at a local vineyard that uses sustainable pest control and other conservation practices.  Consider strolling over to the mini-Farmers’ Market or go to the award winning wine-tasting available for a discounted special event price on the premises.

Join us for a full day of learning and fun day in Colchester! Please wear sturdy closed toe shoes and bring your ACGA water bottles.


II.  The Urban Agriculture Spectrum, Including a Service Opportunity

Holyoke and Springfied, Massachusetts


During the 45-minute trip north to the Pioneer Valley, learn about the area’s agricultural history (rural and urban), demographics, and food access initiatives.  Nuestras Raices is the Holyoke, Mass. based organization founded by migrating Puerto Ricans in 1992. Today the organization has a network of 12 community gardens and a 30-acre inner-city farm that focuses on food systems, economic development, and agriculture.

The morning will be spent touring the farm, as well as providing an hour of service to the farm. (Wear appropriate footwear and a hat; bring gloves.) For lunch, enjoy terrific Puerto Rican food.

The tour continues to Springfield. We will visit Wellspring Harvest, a cooperative business operating a hydroponic greenhouse. The Wellspring Cooperative is creating new, community-based, worker-owned companies based on the purchasing power of area anchor institutions — the colleges, universities, and hospitals.  The new greenhouse is

growing greens for the school system, hospitals, and grocery chain.  The tour will include a tutorial on how to create a personal hydroponic system.

Then we continue on to visit the youth running Gardening the Community’s urban agriculture sites.  We will learn about their CSA, farm stand, bicycle delivery system, and other efforts to improve neighborhood food access.  Discussion will include the issues GTC has faced related to getting and preserving land access.  The visit will include touring the new Walnut Street site and greenhouse.

Finally the tour will stop by the Brookings School Garden.  Springfield Public Schools together with the Springfield Food Policy Council has recently committed to providing a growing experience for all elementary school students.


III.  Coastal Gardenings: Gardens for All Ages

Mystic and New London, Connecticut


Sponsored by the Eastern Connecticut Community Garden Association, visit the historic shoreline communities of Mystic and New London, Connecticut.


The first stop is the Giving Garden at Coogan Farm. The Garden was established in 2014 by the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and the United Way to grow produce for donation to the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center, which distributes food to 63 programs that serve 91 feeding sites across New London County. Using bionutrient farming methods, the Garden is now no-till and uses seaweed for mulch, and composted manure and worm castings for amending the soil.


Lunch will be served at the Coogan Farm in the Hamm Pavilion. An optional walking tour of the historic Farm will be available. Fresh produce from the Giving Garden will be used, and Chef Tomm Johnson will provide soup and bread from his gardens in New London.  Other local delicacies will be enjoyed as well: local honey, oysters, ice cream, etc.


From Mystic, we will travel to the FRESH New London community garden where organic produce is grown in the heart of an urban city. At FRESH, the focus is on youth. Your tour guides will be youth participants who are learning a broad set of food security skills, including growing plants from seed, promoting and managing organic soil, and knowing how and when to harvest and handle everything they grow. Youth are involved with every stage, from seed to sale.


The final stop will be New London High School where their hydroponics and outdoor garden classrooms teach urban teenagers about nutrition and eating healthfully.  Culinary Arts instructor, Chef Tomm, has his students prepare the large variety of vegetables from their 24-bed outdoor classroom/garden. Biology students at the Science and Technology Magnet School of Southeastern Connecticut, on the same campus, use the gardens as well. The greens grown in the hydroponic beds provide salad for the High School.


Your tour guide will be Bill Paradis, an organic farmer and gardener for over thirty years. He will ensure that the hour ride from Hartford is a learning opportunity for all.


IV. New Haven (founded 1638) How to Have Healthy Food for All

New Haven, Connecticut


Tour New Haven, home of the Amistad trial, a 45 minute ride from Hartford.  Your visit will begin at the CitySeed Wooster Square Farmers Market. CitySeed markets have one of the highest redemptions of federal, state and local food assistance benefits in the state of Connecticut.  CitySeed also founded and administers the New Haven Food Policy Council (NHFPC), a volunteer advisory commission of the City of New Haven that advocates for healthy food for all New Haven residents.  This market has a CSA and mobile market.  The newest program is Kitchen at CitySeed, a certified commercial kitchen space that allows for upwards of 15 individuals at a time to experience hands-on learning and also serve as an incubator space for entrepreneurs.

The tour includes  community gardens of The New Haven Land Trust, which  has both traditional preserved lands and about 50 community and school gardens. You will tour and have a local lunch at Common Ground High School, a 20-acre magnet farm high school that cultivates healthy living habits and sustainable environmental practices within a diverse community of young people, adults, and families.

After lunch, you will visit  the New Haven Farms facility next to New Haven’s windmill. New Haven Farms is responding to the intersecting crises of diabetes, obesity, environmental degradation, and poverty by promoting health and community development through urban agriculture.  The program is a partnership between New Haven Farms and two institutions in New Haven that care for the city’s most medically underserved community members.

At this Quinnipiac River site, you will also tour Peels and Wheels Composting.  This program required CT DEEP to revise its composting regulations.  Weekly household kitchen scraps and compostable materials are picked up by bicycle and brought to the facility where compost for the farm and household use is produced.


V.  Community–Based Gardening and Greening since 1857 – by Bus

Hartford, Connecticut


Enjoy a inspiring tour of Hartford’s community gardens and West Hartford’s premier environmental education facility, Westmoor Park!

In the morning you will make your way to Westmoor Park in West Hartford. Westmoor Park, the former estate of Charles and Leila Hunter, was endowed as a public park in 1973. Community members advised that the park would be best used as an environmental learning center, while maintaining the grounds and farmland. It has since become a beacon for environmental education in the region with classes and special events. The park sees roughly 109,000 visitors annually, including trips from local schools and community organizations. Westmoor Park remains a peaceful presence of New England agrarian sensibility You will have ample time to explore the 162-acre park, demonstration farm, and learning center.

The afternoon will be spent touring a few of Hartford’s community gardens. Hartford is home to 20 community gardens, managed by the environmental non-profit organization, KNOX. Tour-goers will see greenhouses which used to be used for UCONN lobster and crayfish aquaponics systems that are now being used as community gardener greenhouses; an 8-foot tall community-designed, wrought iron fence; a community cob oven project; and KNOX’s own incubator farm. Over 350 gardening families make use of both raised beds and in-ground growing styles. KNOX is in the process of developing an urban incubator farming program, inspired by the intrepid growers making use of community garden spaces and then selling at local markets. Tucked away in its concrete walls, you’ll find unexpected oases of green beauty in the City.

Lunch will be provided at noon from a “locally-grown” vendor. Wear your boots!

VI.  Community–Based Gardening and Greening since 1857 – by Bicycle

Hartford, Connecticut


KNOX, Inc is offering a 20-mile tour of nearly flat Hartford. The purpose of the tour is to show off the wide range and long history of  the City’s community-based greening.  The tour will bring riders to historic 19th century Olmsted parks, including the first U.S. park built with municipal funds and the first municipal rose garden.  Then we will stop at several well-established community gardens and also the city’s newest garden.  The tour continues with a  loop through the riverfront on both sides of the Connecticut River, crossing two major bike-friendly bridges Riders will visit the headquarters of KNOX with its large greenhouses, gardens, youth corps operations center, and urban farm, as well as a new organization working to convert a former gold leaf factory and grounds into a community-based urban agriculture center.


In addition to the many interesting “ride-by” locations, tour participants will meet and hear from engaged community members and leaders at each of the key sites.  Expected speakers will include the program director of Riverfront Recapture, the board president of the Bushnell Park Foundation, garden leaders at several community gardens, the program manager for Community Solutions at the Swift Factory, the rosarian at Elizabeth Park, which contains the oldest municipal rose garden and the first rose test garden in the U.S., and staff from Knox, Inc., one of the oldest community gardening and greening organizations in the U.S.  Lunch will include a demonstration of the community-built cob oven at the Earle Street Garden where lunchtime pizzas will be baking over a wood fire.


If time allows, the tour will stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd Garden to get a look at the historic church built by Elizabeth Colt in memory of her husband Sam – soon to be part of a new Coltsville National Historical Park.  (Bicycles and helmets to be provided.)


VII.  Worcester’s Community Gardens – A Diversity of Approaches, Benefits and Communities Involved

Worcester, Massachusetts


The Regional Environmental Council (REC, a food justice organization in Worcester since 1971) will lead a tour to show examples of the many different styles and benefits of community gardens in Worcester, Mass. We will enjoy both a walking and driving tour and explore neighborhood, youth, senior, income generation and carbon sequestration demonstration gardens.

During the 45-minute drive from Hartford and the stop at the REC office, there will be a presentation about the history of community gardening in Worcester, an overview of the city itself and how community gardens programming works currently in Worcester.

A Walking Tour of Main South

We will go on a short loop around the neighborhood of Main South where we will visit six different gardens each with a different style of gardening, organization and community benefit: a neighborhood community garden, a school garden, and a refugee farming collective.

Lunch at the YouthGROW Farm

We will enjoy lunch outdoors on the YouthGROW youth urban agriculture farm with food provided by a local restaurant.  While eating, there will be an overview of the YouthGROW program by local teen participants and leaders.

Driving Tour of four Community Garden Carbon Sequestration Demonstration Sites

After lunch, the tour will include visits to four gardens that were part of a specialized project funded by the EPA to increase the capacity of community gardens to demonstrate the ability to perform carbon sequestration.  There will be a short video introducing the concept of urban carbon sequestration.

Next there will be visits to the Hector Reyes House, AIDS Project Worcester, Benefit Street Garden, and The Village Garden.  One of the strongest examples of community gardening in Worcester is gardens run by seniors.  The tour will conclude with visits to two or three gardens (depending on time availability) where seniors are growing, gathering and giving back.




Tickets will be available for purchase separately from conference registration for those that only want to attend the Tours.