Stratford’s First New Indoor Hydroponic Farm
By Andrea Byrne
Hope—and generosity—indeed bloomed in Stratford on Wednesday evening, June 1st, at 1895 Stratford Avenue. The 9th Annual Hope Blooms in Bridgeport évent was lively and enthusiastic, celebrating the new Indoor Hydroponic Farm, the most recent addition to nOURish BRIDGEPORT’s community efforts. This is the first non-profit indoor hydroponic farm in Connecticut.
The Farm is housed in a 5000 square foot former warehouse, with the growing equivalent of 6 acres of land. It uses several growing methods—fork farms system, grow rig system and freight container system, all of which will help provide the solution to the shortage of healthy food that so many face daily.
The produce grown there year-round will be for distribution at local food pantries and farmers markets, and eventually for commercial use in order to increase funding for nOURish BRIDGEPORT’s other activities:
• The Super Food Pantry & Baby Center, which provides perishable & non-perishable groceries to 2,000 neighbors per week, and baby formula, food, wipes & diapers to 100 babies per week
• Feel The Warmth, mobile community hot suppers, serving 150 neighbors per week
• English As A Second Language, with beginning and intermediate English, Citizenship and Financial Literacy classes, serving 100 per week
• Thanksgiving: Feast in a Box, complete turkey dinner for families to prepare at home, for 400 families per year
• Stratfield Farmers Market, with fresh local produce & artisan/cottage vendors
• Urban Work Camp, an experiential boot camp for suburban youth to learn about food insecurity & hunger
The evening included a guided tour of the Farm, with explanations of how the systems work by Farm Director Lezli Albelo, and Farm Assistants Nancy Smith and Mario Pena.
Attendees were the many sponsors, supporters, and volunteers who help the organization to function. . Mayor Laura Hoydick and Mary Dean, Director. of Community Development, were there to lend their support.
But none of it would be possible without the enormous spirit, energy and devotion of Reverend Sara Smith, President, CEO and founder of nOURish BRIDGEPORT. She is the well-loved motivator behind all of these activities. The successful live auction was a clear demonstration of how much people believe in her message and her mission. As an example, one bidder gave $15,000 to complete the purchase of a refrigerated truck. Throughout the auction, Reverend Sara was kept very busy running to give one of her famous hugs to the many generous bidders who helped pay for stand-alone commercial A/C units, additional fork farms growing units, and support for other program needs.
As part of her remarks, Reverend Sara pointed out that one in four Bridgeport residents face daily food insecurity and food scarcity; one in five children go to bed hungry; the majority of neighborhoods in Bridgeport are food deserts, in that they do not have a supermarket; and the average age at death in Bridgeport is 60, compared to Westport at 79.
In concluding her heartfelt thanks to everyone, Reverend Sara said, “YOU are throwing a huge stone of HOPE into the pond of food insecurity…The ripple effects will be felt exponentially by thousands of people for many years to come.”
To find out more about nOURish BRIDGEPORT and the Indoor Hydroponic Farm, or to make a donation, go to www.NOURISHBPT.org