The sun shone brightly for the Aspetuck Land Trust’s first-ever Native Plant Sale at Gilbertie’s Organic Farm in Easton. A pre-sale webinar and notice to members had generated so much enthusiasm that the sale was sold out. No worries: another is already in the works.

Justin Giorlando, Easton land use consultant, had pre-ordered native blueberry plants and walked to the sale with his wife, Melissa, and son Mikey, 3, rather than drove.

Justin Giorlando and his wife, Melissa, and young son walk to the plant sale with wagon in tow. — Nancy Doniger Photo

“We really enjoy the Easton way of life,” Giorlando said. “It’s such a unique experience, especially for our son, to walk down the road to our local farm and pick up native blueberry bushes in his wagon. And to know that this is just the beginning of the wonderful events to happen now that the Aspetuck Land Trust and Gilbertie’s Farm are partners has us very excited.”

The plant sale, which took place on June 6 and 7, was the first public event at Gilbertie’s Farm since the land trust closed on the property in April, assuring a sustainable future for the bucolic parcel at 65 Adams Road. It’s the first working farm among the land trust’s 145 open space parcels. 

“Having the native plant sale is a great opportunity to get people excited about native plants that they can plant in their own yards that help us to promote biodiversity in the landscape, which is a key component of our Green Corridor initiative,” according to David Brant, executive director.

David Brant, Nancy Moon and Lou Bachhiocchi prepare for the arrival of native plant buyers. — Nancy Doniger Photo

Tucked behind a country farm stand at 65 Adams Road, Gilbertie’s grows fresh herbs and Petite Edibles micro salad greens in a system of 27 greenhouses. Patrons can purchase microgreens, fresh eggs and potted plants, on the honor system, from a small red barn near the start of the driveway. The greenhouses are closed to the public because of strict organic regulations, which have been made all the more stringent during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ever mindful of safety and health standards, the land trust scheduled curbside pickups during 15-minute intervals, four cars per interval, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both sale days. All volunteers wore masks. Orders were assembled prior to patrons’ arrival and were efficiently loaded into their cars.

Alice Cooney fills orders with Art and Mary Ellen Lemay — Nancy Doniger Photo

Mary Ellen Lemay, land owner engagement director, said the sale was the first not only for the land trust but also for the wid seed harvested native plants, which were propagated at Planters Choice in Newtown.

“These little babies have been growing, and this is the first time that we’re selling them,” Lemay said. “So now people who come and buy them will plant them in their backyards so we can expand the Green Corridor. These are our native plants that have been here for thousands of years that we don’t use anymore. So we’re reintroducing them into people’s backyards.”

Lou Bachhiocchi, land stewardship director, praised the sale as a great introduction to native plants for homeowners. It’s important for them to start introducing more natives into their landscapes and gives them the opportunity to see how beautiful the native plants can be, he said. 

Lou Bachhiocchi Volunteers at the native plant sale. — Nancy Doniger Photo

“Native plants supply native insects, which support the birds, which are declining,” Bachhiocchi said. “The only way to get back what we’ve lost from all the development is by having the development be part of the landscape. That means we need native plants so we don’t have sterile islands. We have oases that birds and animals can stop at.”

Overall, 200 people stopped by, according to Alice Cooney, director: of membership and administration manager. Volunteers from the Pollinator Pathway, CT Northeast Farmers Association, Greisers Coffee and Market, and the Aspetuck Land Trust community all worked hard to make the day a success. 

“It was a fantastic event for the land trust, the first of many gatherings at Gilbertie’s,” Cooney said. “We look forward to making many new friends in the community and to another plant sale next fall.”

Alice Cooney, Joan Winter and Abbie Winter gather plants to fulfill pre-sold orders. — Nancy Doniger Photo
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By Nancy Doniger

Nancy Doniger worked as a journalist for three decades and was a founding editor of the nonprofit Easton Courier in partnership with the School of Communications, Media & the Arts at Sacred Heart University (SHU). She served two years as executive member and is now a contributing editing of the Easton Courier. She was a former managing editor of Hometown Publications and Hersam Acorn Newspapers covering Connecticut's Fairfield and New Haven counties. She was a correspondent for the Connecticut section of The New York Times from 1995 until the section was discontinued in 2006. Over the years she edited The Easton Courier, The Monroe Courier, The Bridgeport News and other community newspapers. She taught news editing as an adjunct professor at SHU and served as coordinator and member of the Community Assets Network for the Easton, Redding and Region 9 schools. She was a member of the Newtown Community Center Commission, member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), board member of the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA), and past president and board member of the Barnard Club of Connecticut. She has won awards for her writing from SPJ and NENPA.