Milford's community garden in full bloom

As you walk into the community garden at Eisenhower Park, the first thing you might see is Supervisor Linda Ball working hard and with passion to maintain the sprawling gardens. The gardens, which span about four acres, have blossomed and grown beyond what could have ever been expected when it started 50 years ago.

Back then it was just a small plot of land with a few tiny gardens.

Now, The Milford Recreation Department’s Benson-Crump Memorial Community Gardens Program is one of the largest community gardens in New Haven County. Much of that success is thanks to the efforts of people like Ball who have worked over the years to attract a wide range of Milford residents, and those in surrounding communities, as well as groups and organizations that also use the garden as part of a broader program to grow organic foods.

The goal of the program, Ball emphasizes, is to have a community garden where organic food is grown and people can come together to work and garden together to bring home healthy vegetables and fruits.

Ball said for many people who are ill, such as cancer patients in chemotherapy or those facing other health challenges, this is more than just a garden. This is a place where they can relax and heal.

“It's not only a garden “ Ball said. “It's a community. A garden is many things to many people. A garden should be restful and bring peace to people.”

Within the community gardens is a special area where volunteers grow food to feed the hungry. It is called Plant a Row, or PAR.

Local family farms have helped with donations for PAR. Plants for fund-raisers have for many years come from farms such as Filanowski, Glendale, Robert Treat, Shamrock, Farm Meadow Orchards and Rivercrest.

The community gardens PAR program has donated to a number of organizations that support the hungry inlude The Beth-El Shelter, St. Gabe’s, Milford Christian Academy, the Milford Senior Center, Grace Baptist Church, as well as the New Haven Soup Kitchen, St. Ann’s in New Haven, and the Home for the Brave in Bridgeport.

Ball emphasizes that as supervisor of this community garden, she has to believe in the worth of the program. There are always challenges.  

“I think the hardest part is always the weather because Mother Nature doesn't follow any set plan and is always very powerful,” Ball said. “A week worth of rain during the rainy season or strong winds from a nor'easter can do quite a bit of structural damage that can definitely set you back a bit.”

Paul Richards, who has been gardening here for 20 years, said working in the gardens is a great way to make friends.

“It's always nice to meet new people,” said Richards.

Members of the community garden are in the process of making plans for the annual garlic festival fund-raiser, set for Saturday, Sept. 30 on the Milford Green.

Anyone can sign up for a garden plot. Some people work them individually, and others as groups or groups of friends. The cost for a garden plot is very inexpensive, but often there is a wait list. For information, call Ball at 203-783-3280, extension 8.