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Keney Park Sustainability Project Spreads Excitement About Urban Agriculture

Keney Park Sustainability Project founder Herb E Virgo tells us how initiatives like the organization's home garden kit projects are fostering a sense of self-sustainability.

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by Phillip MlynarSeptember 9, 2021
PHOTO: Keny Park Sustainability Project

“Getting community members to support the organization and the efforts was one of the biggest early obstacles because sustainability and urban agriculture are not as much interest to folks who are in survival mode and trying to meet their basic needs,” says Herb E Virgo, the founder and executive director of Keney Park Sustainability Project.

Situated in Hartford, Connecticut, the Keney Park Sustainability Project aims to educate and empower local residents to take steps towards self-sustainability through initiatives like on-site classes and home garden kit projects.

Taking time out from duties at Keney Park, we spoke to Virgo about the challenges in running a locally-focused initiative and the importance of letting people experience the process first hand. We also got the inside story on some chickens who have proved a hit on the theater stage.


The Roots of Keney Park Sustainability Project

“Our organization was originally called the Family Day Foundation and we were responsible for organizing an annual festival in Keney Park called Family Day,” says Virgo as he recounts the origin of the Keney Park Sustainability Project.

“After a while we started thinking about how we could better impact the community and create more opportunities and better serve the park. So the sustainability project basically came out of that brainstorming session.”


Read more: Tiffani Thiessen talks urban chickens, sustainable living and more.


An Urban Agriculture State of Mind

Virgo says that he experienced a couple of early challenges when launching Keney Park Sustainability Project.

“Finding resources to start the program was one,” he explains. “Then we also had to try and work out a way to get people in the community to think differently about urban agriculture activities.”

Experiencing Agriculture on Your Doorstep

When it came to drumming up interest and support in the local community, Virgo says that a key part of the process was simply “getting people into the space.”

He adds, “Getting people into the garden, getting people into the park, that was key. Just having them exposed to bees and chickens and hydroponics.”


Read more: Start a water garden to grow hydroponic chicken treats!s


Introducing the Home Garden Kit Program

One of Keney Park Sustainability Project’s biggest successes has been the organization’s home garden kit program. “That’s something we started during Covid-19. Everybody was sheltered in place, and we wanted to give people the opportunity to grow at home. We offered the option of a 4-by-4 or an 8-by-4 raised bed, hydroponic kits and grow bags.”

Virgo adds that during the first year of the home garden kit project initiative, they gave out over a hundred kits. Here in the following year, they’ve already hit 275 kits.

Spotlight on the Chickens!

The resident chickens at Keney Park Sustainability Project recently moved from the coop to the center stage when they snagged a role in a production of the play Walden.

“They took to the stage very well!” says Virgo. “Everyone was very shocked because they started to learn the routine of the play based on lights. So they knew when to perch or when to roost and when to come out. I saw one production and when the actors were close to the coop they were extremely active—more active than I’ve ever seen them!”

Follow Keney Park Sustainability Project at Instagram.

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