By Hannah Selinger
There are lots of great things growing in Hampton Bays these days, and this weekend, Good Ground Heritage Garden is offering families an opportunity to come learn the techniques and tricks of horticultural.
On Saturday, August 8, the Ecological Culture Initiative (ECI) in Hampton Bays will host a Good Ground Heritage Garden Tour and Taste. Families are invited to book private tours, which take place during three 90-minute time slots — 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3 p.m. — for a walk through the productive, edible garden at the historic St. Joseph Villa. Two separate family groups will be guided concurrently, taking off from different spots in the garden. Garden visitors must wear a face covering when within six feet of others. Visitors can sign up online, while spaces are still available.
During the interactive tour, which costs $125 per family, groups will tour the hugelkultur beds (hugelkultur is a method of traditional German permaculture that involves slightly sloped natural beds that are filled with organic material), pollinator garden, beehives, and composting bins. The massive, edible garden is the site of everything from watermelons to asparagus to fist-sized onions. Fortunate visitors will even have chance encounters with a monarch butterfly (or maybe even more than one). At the end of the tour, each family will receive a bag filled with farm-fresh food from the garden to bring home with them, as well as other unique local items like honey, black gold compost, recipes and instructions for making organic house cleaner.
At the garden’s beehive, families will learn about apiology with the Initiative’s beekeeper, Chris Kelly, before moving on to a look at how the compositing program works, with resource director Tony Romano.
The Ecological Culture Initiative is, director of events Dorene Livia said, “the true educational cornerstone of our community.” Food grown on site is donated to the nearby St. Rosalie Food Pantry, where those in need have access to fruits and vegetables grown right in their own area. Some of the food is also used in ECI’s Organic Farm-to-Table Dinners. Volunteers are responsible for harvesting the produce and getting it prepared for transport, so that community members can benefit from the garden’s bounty.
Livia hopes that the tour and taste will encourage a generation of young eaters to feel passionately about investing in the future of farm-to-table eating, and “to see what you can do in your own backyard.”
The massive garden is a blueprint for anything and everything one might aspire to grow in a private garden, and experiments abound. Tomatoes are currently being trained on bamboo in two separate ways, to see which one works best. On a recent July afternoon, even oppressive heat could not discourage fat squash leaves from taking over one of the garden’s plentiful raised beds. A pair of monarch butterflies flitted in between fence posts, in a stroke of good luck. Butterflies in any garden are always a welcome surprise.
Those raised beds, Livia said, are another valuable lesson that she hopes the tour imparts to visitors, both young and old. “Everyone can have a raised garden bed,” she said. Moving families away from a dependence on factory farming and teaching them about local, sustainable produce — whether it be in their own backyards or through alternate sources, like Community-Supported Agriculture programs (known as CSAs), farmer’s market shopping, or other avenues of sourcing — can actually contribute to a healthier lifestyle, too. ECI runs and manages the Good Ground Farmers Market, and families can learn more about the market as part of their tour.
ECI’s events extend beyond the garden tour, too. For $10 a year, anyone interested can purchase a membership, which grants access to special events like farm-to-table dinners, gardening workshops and more. Although the scheduled late-summer and fall dinners, which traditionally take place at the St. Joseph Villa, are currently postponed, ECI hopes to host more in the future. The $45 dinners have celebrated the seasons, with a bountiful display of locally harvested produce in a picturesque setting.
Ultimately, the goal of the Good Ground Heritage Garden Tour and Taste — and of ECI’s mission as a whole — is to connect farmers and artisans with the community at large, and to teach lessons of sustainability to families who may not have considered the full impact of food in the world before.
As parting advice for now and for the future, Livia offered this directive, straight from the ECI. “Get involved,” she said. “Get your children involved.”
On August 8, you can.
To purchase tickets for Ecological Culture Initiative’s Good Ground Heritage Garden Tour and Taste, visit eciny.org and click on “upcoming events.” The garden is on the grounds of the historic St. Joseph Villa, 81 Lynne Avenue, Hampton Bays.