Growing Relationships at Trinfo.Cafe’s Community Garden
The community garden at Trinfo.Café has undergone renovations and repairs this summer, thanks to fundraising efforts led by the Simsbury Grange and Susan A. Masino, Vernon D. Roosa Professor of Applied Science at Trinity and vice president of the Simsbury Grange.
The $2,150 raised by the Simsbury Grange’s crowdfunding campaign was matched by a grant from the Sustainable CT Community Match Fund, which is an initiative of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University. The total of $4,300 is being used to repair the raised garden beds, purchase soil, and access basic supplies and advice, among other things. Although the new funding is going directly toward garden renovation, the reinvestment in the garden’s physical space is inherently a reinvestment in the Hartford community.
Carlos Espinosa ’96, director of Trinity’s Office of Community Relations and Trinfo.Café, describes the community garden as a “common ground” for everyone in the neighborhood. “It creates the opportunity for different folks to come together, build relationships with each other, and break down perceptions that they may have had of one another,” Espinosa said. One of the unique aspects of Trinfo’s community garden is that is hosts not only Hartford residents as gardeners, but welcomes various community organizations and Trinity’s faculty, staff, and students as well. Retrofitting the garden maintains this common space in which the Trinity community and the greater Hartford community can come together.
The community garden at Trinfo.Café, located at 1300 Broad Street, offers free garden plots to registered gardeners, a small park with picnic tables, and a “Read and Seed” Little Free Library that is open to the public. The “Read and Seed” lends books and gives out seeds supported by a collaboration between the Simsbury Grange and the Trinity College Neuroscience Program.
As a professor at Trinity, Masino said that she especially cherishes using the garden as an outdoor classroom, as it offers a space for her to connect academics with community engagement. “I usually bring my class there once a semester but also offer extra credit for an additional workday at the garden,” Masino said. “My students said that going there was a truly special experience that they would always remember.”
Bea Dresser ’22, a Hartford resident, has been focused on connecting the Trinity and Hartford communities since arriving on Trinity’s campus, when she began working at Trinfo.Café on only the second day of class in her first year. Last year, she hosted a composting workshop through Trinfo.Café that brought people from Trinity and the Hartford area together at the community garden. While Dresser explained the science behind composting and taught attendees how to compost, she also offered an opportunity for people to meet each other just before the gardening season began. She successfully grew the garden’s close community as, after her workshop, many of the Trinity students who attended signed up to have a plot.
Dresser also encouraged her mother, Claudia Gonzalez IDP ’10, to become a gardener there, as it would provide an opportunity for both Dresser and Gonzalez to build relationships within the diverse community. While tending to their tomatoes, herbs, and flowers, Dresser and Gonzalez love to see familiar faces and make friends. “Building relationships is exactly why I signed up,” Gonzalez said. “I like to live in the city, but I feel like I have to make more of an effort to reach out and make connections in an urban space. At the garden, I meet people who live close to me, but also people from around the rest of the city and people from Trinity.”
Trinity continues to make strides in the way the college embraces community engagement. In recent years, the college launched its Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER), which brought together five community engagement programs. “It’s not enough for Trinity to be just an institution of higher education for the students enrolled,” Espinosa said. “Trinity also plays a huge role in the community.” The relationships that grow at the community garden will last much longer than the gardening season.
To read more about Trinfo.Café and the community garden, visit TrinfoCafe.org.