Friends Get More Publicity

This article appeared in the Record-Journal on March 25, 2007.

Town-owned Boulder Knoll could become a farm again

by Tiffany Aron, Record-Journal Staff

Copyright 2007, Record-Journal, All Rights Reserved.

CHESHIRE – It’s hard for some to get excited about yard work, but the Friends of Boulder Knoll are hoping to change that. The local nonprofit organization’s mission is to educate the public about responsible uses for open space and it has organized a free, three-part adult education course on Boulder Knoll, a 153-acre, townowned parcel.

At the first session Monday, Kimberly Stoner, president of FBK and an entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, gave a talk on community farming. She explained that Cheshire could create its own community farm on part of the former Jackman, Lassen and Blauvelt properties that could grow food, which could be given to members of the community, especially the poor. Such a farm also would present the opportunity for educational programs, events and festivals.

Before any seedlings can be planted or vegetables harvested, though, the grass on the parcel has to be cut. It’s been several years since that’s been done, and until the cutting is taken care of the land remains unsuitable for farming. The more time that passes, the more difficult cultivation becomes, which Stoner believes is a shame since the town paid $1.6 million for the property in 2000. “They bought it and have failed to maintain it,” she said.

Though the town still may be far from deciding on the best open-space use for the property, Stoner and the rest of FBK are gathering input from residents and trying to raise awareness through the three-part series. The second course is scheduled for Monday with a presentation by Bob Giddings, FBK’s vice president and an area veterinarian, on creating a wildlife habitat. Giddings, who lives adjacent to the land parcel, has created a 10-acre habitat on his own property and has volunteered to create a similar five-acre habitat and walking trail on the town parcel.

The third course, to be given by FBK Secretary Jill Casertano, will be about communitysupported agriculture, in which customers become shareholders of local farms. By paying up front for weekly boxes of produce throughout the growing season, the shareholders create a stable customer base and income for small farmers. They also get to enjoy a steady supply of fresh, locally grown food.

The image of a mutually beneficial relationship between local farmers and residents is attractive, but it cannot become a reality in Cheshire until the mowing is taken care of. “I saw some pictures. It does look pretty bad right now,” said 15-year-old Hannah Gregory, who attended FBK’s first course. A vocational agriculture student at Lyman Hall in Wallingford, Gregory needs some agricultural hours to meet her academic requirements. Being so close to her home in Cheshire, Boulder Knoll would be the perfect spot for her to roll up her sleeves and “be involved with the physical work” of a community farm, which she said would be fun. She can’t do anything , though, until the land is cleared. “It’ll cost more the longer they wait,” she said, estimating that the cost now would be about $7,000. “It’d really be best for the town right now to just get it done.”

Giddings’ talk on ” Creating a Wildlife Habitat” is scheduled for Monday and Casertano’s presentation on ” Community-supported Agriculture” is sched-uled for April 2. Both courses will be at Cheshire High School from 7 to 8 p. m. For more information, contact Friends of Boulder Knoll at ( 203) 439 0073.

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