Long Island Community Agriculture Network and the Gateway Community Garden
The Long Island Community Agriculture Network was formed in Spring, 2009 in Huntington. It grew out of the recognition that social justice activists and food/conservation activists—who had been working side-by-side for many years--had overlapping goals that could be met by uniting in an effort to create community gardens and return some of Long Island’s rich farmland to production by a new generation of farmers.
A new community garden in Huntington Station became LICAN’s first project. Our intention is that it will be a template for other community gardens in Huntington and elsewhere on Long Island. Hunger is a present and growing problem in the Station, a multi-cultural African-American, Hispanic, and White community. The goals and benefits of the garden were clear:
- It would help alleviate hunger by enabling residents to grow a significant portion of their own food.
- Organically grown fresh vegetables and fruit would improve nutrition and health.
- Educational programs for adults and children would encourage healthy eating by expanding knowledge of vegetables and fruit and how to incorporate them into daily meals.
- The garden would become a source of pride and cooperation in the community, a place to gather with neighbors and an oasis of peace.
- It would be an investment in economic development, generating value in the food produced, raising local property values and be a modest source of jobs.
Key individuals in the initial organizing effort were Lawrence Foglia, owner of Fox Hollow Farm and project manager of the Peconic Land Trust; Lisa Mitten, a value engineer, gardener and consultant on local food shed projects; Frances Cerra Whittelsey, a journalist, co-chair of the social justice committee of the Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative (HiHi) and member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington; and, Carol Werblin, co-chair of the social justice committee of HiHi and a member of Temple Beth El.
This core group met with Huntington Town Council Member Glenda Jackson, who declared her support for the effort and arranged for LI-CAN to receive help from the town’s planning department in its search for suitable land.
The committee visited and considered several possible sites and eventually came upon the unused property in Huntington Station that for years has been slated for construction of a recreation center.
The committee approached Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone with a proposal to garden the land until such time as a recreation area is built.
The Supervisor promised—and delivered--a range of support for the effort within days of the meeting, a resolution authorizing the Supervisor to enter into a licensing agreement with LI-CAN had been passed unanimously by the Town Board. This occurred in February, 2010.
Later, the Town Board authorized the allocation of $120,000 from the town’s Open Space Bond Fund for the project. To date, approximately $50,000 has been spent by the town to clear the site, irrigate and fence it, build a parking area and storage shed, supply soil and compost and lumber to build the raised beds.
All of these funds were spent directly by the town; none were paid to LICAN.
LICAN became responsible for all the labor of building and managing the garden. Donors provided seeds, seedlings and tools, and enough funding to hire a garden educator, Betsy Davidson, a resident of the Station, who enabled 30 local children to experience the wonder of gardening in 24 child-sized beds.
Supervisor Petrone also asked LI-CAN to revitalize a portion of the existing (Kubecka) community garden in Greenlaw, known as the Clifford Soergel Memorial Garden. A portion of the food grown there had traditionally been given to the needy.
LICAN expects to rebuild Soergel in 2011 with a children’s garden and special raised beds for gardeners with disabilities.