Trinity, Neighbors Celebrate Trinfo Café Community Garden

Mellon Grant Supports New Model for Community Engagement

What was once an internet café adjacent to Trinity’s campus has evolved into a centerpiece of the College’s engagement with Hartford and the Trinity neighborhood. In addition to providing internet access to the community, Trinfo Café offers after-school programs; a variety of computer courses taught by Trinity students; media literacy training; and, now, a community garden. 

Last week, the Trinity community and the neighborhood joined together to celebrate the opening of the community garden, reinvigorated by a rotating group of faculty members working with their students and the neighborhood. The project – called Fresh Food, New Connections – was awarded a Mellon Grant to execute this model.

“Because faculty members have so many demands on their time, something like this is hard to keep going [with just one faculty member],” said Susan Masino, Vernon Roosa Professor of Applied Science, “but with an academic focus and multiple faculty involved, it can thrive.”

Susan Masino, Vernon Roosa Professor of Applied Science, addresses the crowd at the July 10 opening of the Trinfo Cafe Community Garden.
 The faculty members involved come from a variety of disciplines: psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, language and culture studies, and economics. They incorporate the garden into a course each semester, getting students involved in the project. Participating faculty members have set up a four-year schedule that will help to sustain the garden and interact with the community.

While studying the economics of farmers markets, students in Carol Clark’s ECON 101 course helped to get the community garden up and running, as did eight students pursuing an independent study. In the coming academic year, students in Dario Del Puppo’s “Food in Italian History, Society, and Art” course will spend time utilizing and maintaining the garden.

While first working on the garden, Masino discovered that a neighboring unused parcel was also owned by Trinity. She worked with the College to clean up the space, which will be used as an outdoor classroom and sculpture garden featuring the work of Trinity students.

Carlos Espinosa, director of Trinfo Café, is excited about the new space and what it means for Trinity’s relationship with the neighborhood.

“Programs like the garden help broaden Trinfo beyond its narrow origins as a technology center into more of a community space that bridges the College and the surrounding neighborhood,” he said. “The garden provides a focal point for students, faculty, Trinfo patrons, youth from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, and neighborhood residents to forge new relationships, learn best growing practices from one other, and share in the fruits of everyone's labor.”

Celebrating the opening of the garden last week, dozens of members of the Trinity community and the neighborhood explored the space, enjoying food, live music, dancing, and conversation with friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Joanne Berger-Sweeney, President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience, was among those in attendance.

“This is a real sign of the liberal arts reaching beyond the hedges and into the community,” said Berger-Sweeney. “I am so proud to be a part of this effort and a part of this College.”

The community garden has already become extremely popular. There is currently a waiting list for the free plots for neighborhood residents. Anyone interested in signing up or learning more about the community garden can contact Trinfo Café at 860-297-4238.

To view more photos of the July 10th community garden opening, click here. Photos by John Atashian.