Newtown’s Victory Garden was the site of a memorial tree planting ceremony and tree give-away on Saturday, October 5. Volunteers came prepared with gardening gloves, shovels, and hoes in hand to help in the planting.
Newtown’s Parks and Recreation Department partnered with the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, Metropolitan State University and Inver Hills Community College, both in Minnesota, to plant 30 fruit trees in Newtown’s Victory Garden.
The trees that were planted on Saturday, as well as an additional 30 trees designated to be distributed to volunteers for personal gardens, consisted of a variety of fruit-bearing species.
Rico Montenegro, an arborist for the award-winning international nonprofit charity The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, explained the trees were an assortment of apples, peaches, nectarines, cherries, pears, figs, pluots, and others. He stressed how all these trees are long-term investments. An apple tree can live to be up to 200 years old and can benefit a community for generations to come.
Before the official ceremonial planting began, Victory Garden Manager and Founder Harvey Pessin explained how the day’s events would proceed.
Selectman James Gaston, Sr, followed next and briefly shared the history of victory gardens. He described how they were originally made to distribute to those in need and that the memorial trees planted will add beauty to Newtown’s Victory Garden, provide shade for those who rest, and food for the hungry.
“It will serve as a reminder for our friends who believe it is better to give than to receive,” he added.
Afterward, each group’s representative took time to speak to the crowd about what the tree planting specifically meant to them and their organizations.
Cem Akin, executive director of The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, said, “Symbolically, this orchard might simply represent all the love and caring that the entire world has shown for this community, and how these sentiments will only grow stronger over time, like the trunks and branches of these trees. And like the healing process, this orchard will grow slowly but surely, until it is strong and abundant.”
Mr Akin said it was a privilege be there honoring the students, staff, and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School. He concluded his speech with the touching sentiment, “We hope that this orchard will be a meaningful contribution to your wonderful community for decades to come. And may the memories of the loved ones we’ve lost continue to blossom in our hearts forever.”
August Hoffman, a professor of psychology at Metropolitan State University, and Barbara Curchack, a professor of psychology and garden coordinator at Inver Hills Community College, then presented a plaque for the garden. Both professors had traveled from Minnesota, with eight students, to attend last weekend’s planting event.
According to Parks & Rec Director Amy Mangold, Dr Hoffman had played an integral part in making the memorial tree planting happen. After 12/14 tragedy, she said, he wrote a letter reaching out to Sandy Hook.
Due to Dr Hoffman’s patience, persistence and compassion, said Ms Mangold, they were able to finally make this dream come true. After months of communication with one another, the Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony on October 5 was the first time all of those involved in the project were able to meet face-to-face.
During the ceremonial tree planting, Mr Montenegro demonstrated the step-by-step process on how to properly plant the fruit trees. As the group of volunteers gathered around to watch, he gave informative tips pertaining to the soil, raking, shoveling, mulching, and the use of gator bags for watering.
Toward the end of Mr Montenegro’s instructions, he requested six volunteers to help with the final phases of planting. He specifically asked for some of the youngest members to volunteer and help fill soil around the tree. With that, he stressed their significant role in the success of the garden.
After the first fruit tree was planted, volunteers were able to work together to plant the remaining 29 trees.
Newtown’s Victory Garden is located in Fairfield Hills and is proudly celebrating its third year.