Phase one of a local garden construction project is now complete at Billings Forge Community Works in Hartford, Conn., thanks to many volunteer man hours, skill and, of course, money.
Billings Forge Community Works was one of several recent recipients of a Pratt & Whitney Green Power Grant, and that $5,000 award came in handy on Oct. 26, 2013 when more than 20 Pratt & Whitney volunteers and a number of community members, including several high school students, overhauled garden beds, replaced wood, weeded, picked the remaining produce of the season and began work on a pergola.
"Pratt helped design the plans for the beds and the pergola that's going to be in the middle," said Abigail Piva, an employee of Pratt & Whitney who was instrumental in organizing the day's construction event.
"This is a community garden for the people who live in the Billings Forge community. The Kitchen is actually a restaurant, and they take food from the garden, and they use it in The Kitchen. It's a non-profit restaurant, so the proceeds go back into the community that comes here," said Piva.
Billings Forge Community Works Urban Agriculture Coordinator Amara Watkin-Anson added, "It's a community garden, an educational garden and a production garden. We have sections that are used for youth gardens during the summer and during the school year. Extra produce we grow, particularly herbs, goes to the Firebox and The Kitchen. The Firebox is a farm-to-table fine dining restaurant, and The Kitchen is also a retail cafe', catering business and culinary job training program."
"We're excited about building this gazebo so we can have more formal youth classes underneath it," Watkin-Anson continued. "In the past, we've just had to pitch tents and use picnic tables."
In phase two of the project, volunteers will finish the work that was started in October.
"We'll be replacing some of the wood. We don't use pressure-treated because it's bad for the soil, so it erodes after a few years. These are about four-years old, so a lot of the wood is starting to rot out, so we've started the replacement project with that," said Watkin-Anson.
"Pratt & Whitney gave us the grant as part of their Green Power Grant Program to purchase all the supplies, and they donated labor and expertise, so that's been really, really helpful," she added.
Forty-seven garden beds measuring 12' x 4', all built by volunteers using donated materials, are harvested and maintained each year by community volunteers and the families living on site. Ten of these beds are available exclusively to residents of Billings Forge.
Billings Forge Community Works encourages community participation and empowerment in the Frog Hollow section of Hartford through promoting access to healthy food, engaging youth and developing employment opportunities and economically sustainable social enterprises. Goals of Billings Forge Community Works include improving housing opportunities in the Frog Hollow community and fighting homelessness, job training, educational advancement and strengthening families through a variety of methods and resources. Community spirit is high on the organization's list of goals, and the community garden complements these initiatives. For more information about BFCW, visit them online at www.billingsforgeworks.org.
Launched in 2008, Pratt & Whitney's Green Power Grant Program provides grant money to U.S. employee volunteers for clean-up, habitat restoration and environmental education programs. Visit http://www.pw.utc.com/Environmental_Leadership for more information.