Cornerstone Home: Garden at farm to serve disabled

Turn the earth, plant and hoe. Water! Sunshine! Watch things grow.
With a vision of intellectually disabled people learning to tend a garden and share in the everyday miracle of growing food, the selectmen approved a license agreement allowing Cornerstone Home & Gardens Inc. to teach gardening on a small patch of town land at the former McKeon Farm on Old Stagecoach Road.
“We’re going to set up an educational gardening experience for individuals with disabilities,” Cece Berger of Cornerstone told the selectmen. “It could be adults who live in town, or students.”
The printed agreement reviewed by the selectmen said the gardening program would serve “individuals on the autism spectrum” but Berger told the selectmen she’d like to change that to the “individuals with intellectual disabilities” — a broader, more inclusive wording.
The $1-a-year agreement gives Cornerstone 5,000 square feet — about an eighth of an acre — at the town’s 42-acre McKeon Farm tract between Ridgebury and Old Stagecoach roads. It began Friday, Feb. 1, and runs through the end of 2019.
Under the agreement Cornerstone is allowed to teach “five to ten” disabled individuals and is required to “provide constant supervision” while they’re on the site.
Cornerstone is allowed one bus trip to and one bus trip from the site each day.
At the selectmen’s meeting a Ridgebury neighbor in the audience, John Katz, asked about parking accommodations for the adults who’ll be on the site, working with the disabled gardeners.
There would be five or six cars on the site, at most, he was told, and no need for a formal parking area.
Under the agreement no pesticides or herbicides may be use on the town’s property.
Cornerstone is also required to “maintain the site in a clean and orderly fashion” and provide monthly reports to the Conservation Commission, the town agency which manages McKeon Farm along with other open space areas.
The Conservation Commission also has the right “to inspect the site from time to time at its sole discretion.”
The agreement was approved unanimously at the Board of Selectmen’s Jan. 23 meeting.
“It’s a great thing you’re doing,” Selectwoman Barbara Manners said.