In your corner: Teamwork is winning formula for Canaan’s victory garden

By Ruth Epstein

Originally printed in the Republican-American, June 23, 2020

CANAAN – Victory gardens that were planted in private residences and public parks during World War I and World War II not only served to help feed residents of several nations, but also boosted civic morale.

Reminiscent of those efforts can be seen on a plot in this town, where many have joined together to help sustain neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Catie Aakjar found out the deliveries from Connecticut Food Bank, which she helped distribute, were halted, she approached the Board of Selectmen with the idea of planting a community garden. The board was amenable and offered a spot on municipally owned land.

Selectman Christian Allyn took the lead on the board and began mobilizing volunteers. Denise and Ron Dower contacted the local Knights of Columbus, who generously donated $500. Wood was secured for the planter boxes through a donation from Tallon Lumber, and Laurelbrook Farm contributed 10 yards of soil.

Allyn spoke of the many volunteers who have donated their time to the project. Bill Tierney built the wooden planter boxes. He also constructed the gate that joins two sides of the wire mesh fencing installed to keep critters out. Jack O’Donnell provided compost.

Allyn, Aaron Knickerbocker and Kyle Litchfield hammered in the posts that support the fence.

“And it all happened in nine days,” said an incredulous Allyn.

He also pointed to the neighbors who have enthusiastically embraced the project. Carol Overby is allowing water from her system to be used on the garden. The Dowers are reimbursing the cost. Glenn Miller loaned his wheelbarrow, and others are keeping a close eye as vegetable plants start growing. Allyn and others are maintaining the plot, weeding and watering as necessary.

“The neighbors are thrilled with this,” Allyn said. “It’s the best thing that’s happened in their neighborhood.”

Tomatoes, lettuce and kale are among the bounty now growing at the site. On Saturday, Aakjar and Denise Dower were busy planting more tomatoes that had been donated by Ward’s Nursery in Great Barrington, Mass.

Allyn looked around at the rest of the area that is an underutilized soccer practice field and said he has visions of expanding the garden in the future. “But for now, we’re keeping it small and simple. We got started a bit late in the season.”

When the crops are ready, they will be distributed through Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry at the Pilgrim House.

Update as of July 16, 2020

CANAAN – The first picking at the Victory Garden in Canaan has occurred. A crop of kale was harvested last week and judging from the health of the plants in the fenced-in area near the municipal parking lot, they’ll be much more coming as the season progresses.

The idea for a community garden came from Catie Aakjar when she found out the Connecticut Food Bank would no longer make deliveries in town. She approached the selectman to ask if a site for such a garden could be found. They were very agreeable and with the help and generosity of many townspeople, the plants in the wooden boxes are flourishing.

All vegetables will be going to Fishes and Loaves food pantry for distribution. The pantry serves residents of Canaan, Falls Village and Norfolk.

Selectman Christian Allyn adjusts a hose at the community victory garden in Canaan. Ruth Epstein Republican-American


A community victory garden is growing in Canaan. Ruth Epstein Republican-American


Carol Schneider sells a mask she created to Carol Ellis at the town’s original farmers market in West Cornwall on Saturday. Schneider was selling them to benefit the Cornwall Food and Fuel Fund. Ruth Epstein Republican-American


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