Gardening with an Orange Thumb

Outside Bauer Park’s community gardens, Bauer Park Advisory Committee member Lucinda Pinchot holds some samples of her favorite crop, the French heirloom Cinderella pumpkin, which she grew in her own garden plot at Bauer.
Outside Bauer Park’s community gardens, Bauer Park Advisory Committee member Lucinda Pinchot holds some samples of her favorite crop, the French heirloom Cinderella pumpkin, which she grew in her own garden plot at Bauer. Photo by Sunny Bosco/The Source

October is Lucinda Pinchot’s favorite time of year.

Everything is orange, Lucinda’s favorite color. And it’s harvest time for pumpkins, her favorite crop.

Lucinda, who serves on the Advisory Committee for Madison agricultural and environmental center Bauer Park, even once dreamt of becoming a pumpkin farmer.

“Pumpkins are my favorite, because secretly in my heart of hearts I want to be a pumpkin farmer,” Lucinda says. “I decided that when I was about 10.”

She became a nurse, not a pumpkin farmer, but says in spite of having foregone a career in professional farming she has “always managed to have a vegetable garden everywhere I’ve lived, even if it was on a window sill.”

One of Lucinda’s roles within the Advisory Committee is to work with Madison Beach & Recreation to coordinate the Bauer community gardens program, through which town residents can rent seasonal garden plots from April to October for $25.

“It’s a team effort. Everything is a team effort at Bauer,” says Lucinda, who began overseeing the community gardens last year. “I’m still a novice, but it’s been an exciting year and we’ve established a number of positive directions, especially giving food to the Madison Food Pantry.”

She’s referring to a food donation program through which community gardeners at Bauer donate food they grow to hungry people in Madison.

“That had been done in the past, but we’re trying to organize it a bit more and we had a bit more [food],” Lucinda says. “We had a pretty good year.”

That’s an understatement. Lucinda estimates that Bauer’s community gardeners donated hundreds of pounds of food: “all different types of vegetables and herbs.”

During the summer, the pantry made one food pickup at Bauer every week, and all 140 community garden plots contributed food.

“Everybody who had a community garden plot helped to grow that donated food,” Lucinda says. “It’s all volunteer.”

Bauer also has one donated plot of land that Lucinda works and from which all food grown is donated to the pantry. Lucinda also donates some of the produce from her own Bauer plot to the pantry.

“I have a large plot and one of the other members donated a plot last year,” she says. “I typically grew vegetables for the food pantry and that was fun, so I had my own [plot] and one for the food pantry and it went really well.”

A nurse at Yale University’s Department of Colo-Rectal Surgery, Lucinda moved to Madison four years ago from Guilford.

As a new resident of Madison, she says she took her grandchildren to Bauer’s Harvest Festival. When she saw the community gardens, it was love at first sight: “I said, ‘Oh, Heaven!’”

Growing has always been a pastime that’s close to Lucinda’s heart.

In the 1970s, she lived and worked on an organic dairy farm in New York for two years after being hired there as a blacksmith apprentice.

“The project was organic and bio-dynamic and very, very conscientious of the effect that its farming had on the land,” she says. “That was such a wonderful education for me and really, really stayed with me. I’ve tried to apply that and it’s where my heart is.”

Today, Lucinda grows half the produce her family consumes—all organic.

“The dependence on petrochemicals and petro-fertilizers is ultimately not cost effective, especially when you take into consideration the effect it has on the soil...I could go on!” she says with a laugh.

Lucinda also spent some time in the 1970s living without electricity or running water.

“That was an incredible lesson for me—the idea of being self sustaining,” she says.

Lucinda would later teach gardening to all four of her children and all three grandchildren.

“It’s one of the responsibilities of a parent to teach a child how to grow their own food,” Lucinda says. “You may not have to use it [the lessons], but it’s always good to know.”

Not surprisingly, Lucinda says in her free time she likes to look at seed catalogs or watch documentaries about how to grow pumpkins. Raising the perfect pumpkin, is, after all, “a passionate pastime for a number of people.”

This week, Lucinda and the other folks at Bauer are gearing up for the Harvest Festival that first brought Lucinda there.

“It’s a celebration of this wonderful time of year, when we harvest what we’re growing and it’s a wonderful community event that’s great for children,” she says.

The festival promises pony rides, a hay maze and hay rides, scarecrow making, pumpkin painting, an antique cider press demonstration, and more.

And as for the rest of October, her favorite month, Lucinda has pumpkins to tend to.

In addition to cooking with them—making pumpkin soup and other dishes—she plans to make a few jack-o-lanterns.

“I follow Martha Stewart’s advice,” she says. “Be creative and use all different kinds of pumpkins...I love to decorate with food, but there’s so many people hungry in the world. It’s important to eat what we grow.”

 

The Bauer Park Harvest Festival is on Saturday, Oct. 15 from
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bauer Park, 257 Copse Road, Madison. For more info about Bauer Park, visit www.madisonct.org/bauer or “Like” Bauer Park on Facebook.

Community garden plots become available in April. To rent a plot, contact Madison Beach & Recreation at erskinesa@madisonct.org or visit www.madisonct.org/beach_rec.

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