Church begins work on Garden Box project

MILFORD – On the morning of Jan. 16, a small group gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Milford to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in service and to act on an idea that had been percolating in the back of the Rev. Barbara McKusick-Liscord’s mind for quite a while – The Garden Box Project.

The project aims to improve the quality of the food people are eating, to reduce our community’s carbon footprint and to foster independence for families as the participants learn and practice sustainable gardening.

Though the goals may sound lofty, the project itself is simple enough: build a box and, under the guidance of an experienced mentor, learn to grow healthy food at home – affordably.

After a song led by Cathy Goldwater and a brief explanation of the process, the volunteers set to work building four 3-foot-by-6-foot frames that will become home to vegetable gardens for local families in need.

Liscord’s husband, local contractor Paul Liscord, taught the volunteers to accurately measure and safely cut the lumber, as well as how to assemble the frames.

The key, according to Liscord, is to think food-safe, with no pressure-treated lumber and no chemically treated screws that might leach toxins into the soils, ending up in the vegetables.

Among the volunteers hard at work were Shylah Bogel and her cousin Kayla Katsikas, two teenage girls who will be receiving one of the garden boxes.

The girls, along with Shylah’s mothers, Bonnie Barry and Jessica Bogel, will learn to grow vegetables in their garden box under the mentorship of Tricia Jalbert this spring.

Once everyone got busy building, taking turns with drills and tape measures, the project came together quickly. The small crew completed four garden frames in just over an hour.

Shylah and Kayla took turns measuring and fastening screws on their future garden’s frame. When it was completed, Shylah proudly laid claim to the frame, signing her name in bold black letters across the side. Once on site at her home, the box will hold 8 inches of healthy, workable soil and compost.

As the growing season progresses, her family will learn to tend plants; amend the soil; and properly water, weed and care for their crops under the experienced and watchful eye of Jalbert, their garden mentor.

Throughout the spring, the mentors and the gardeners will meet to learn the finer intricacies of home gardening and sustainable living from each other and discuss their gardening successes and failures.

Though the current group of garden box families is small, Liscord and her garden guru, David Momenee of St. Patrick’s Church, hope to bring in more volunteers and more churches over the next year, looking forward to expanding the number of families that they can serve together.

“Growing a garden can’t happen in a day; building a community can’t happen in a day,” McKusick-Liscord said, commenting on the program’s inaugural season.

But it appears that it can happen quickly, as she already has begun to receive calls from potential mentors, possible recipient families and another church, all eager to participate.

Liscord said she holds great hope that as folks in the Milford area move toward sustainability and independence, they also will find peace and equality.

As she sees it “In a very real way, planting seeds plants peace.”

At 4:30 p.m. Feb. 15, the fledgling gardeners will gather in the Barnum Hall in the basement of the church to learn about composting, discuss gardening and share a meal with the volunteers. The program is open to the public, and anyone who wishes to come and learn more about composting, gardening or the project is encouraged to come.

If you would like more information or would like to find out how to participate in The Garden Box Project, call the office of Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Milford at 673-1870.