Wilton schools add space for organic gardening

In an effort to provide hands-on organic gardening experiences for students, Cider Mill School added almost 1,500 square feet of gardening beds and a 650-square-foot greenhouse was installed at Middlebrook School this summer.

Both schools worked with Stamford-based firm Green Up, LLC — owned by Wilton resident Bob Coogan and his son, Colin — to design and construct their science and food program additions, and Wilton resident Phil Steinberg managed both projects.

Another Wilton resident, John Trofa, was also involved. He did the stone work to support the greenhouse at Middlebrook, as well as the gravel for both schools’ projects.

Trofa’s three sons and Steinberg’s son and daughter all went through the Wilton Public School system. Coogan’s daughter, Bernadette Hess, works at Miller-Driscoll School.

The addition of gardening beds at Cider Mill was a project spearheaded by science teacher Kevin Meehan, who — with the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) — envisioned an enclosed garden with wide walkways and multiple growing beds to get students involved in all aspects of growing and harvesting vegetables.


The Middlebrook greenhouse project has been more than two years in the making.

Middlebrook food science teacher Heather Priest has been growing vegetables and herbs in her classroom and the school’s courtyard for a few years. She started an organic garden at the middle school five years ago and introduced a garden-to-table curriculum three years ago.

Priest identified the year-round value of having a greenhouse big enough for 30-plus students to experience growing food during the school year and sought to make it happen.

“I put together a proposal for the Board of Education, as well as the Wilton Educational Foundation, for a greenhouse in the courtyard,” Priest told The Bulletin.

“They requested specifications for two types of greenhouse and opted for the type of greenhouse that GreenUp installed. After many meetings and approval processes, they finally approved the final plans.”

The greenhouse will be used to support Middlebrook’s family and consumer science curriculum for gardening and culinary arts. Priest said the greenhouse will allow her to teach students “how to grow food all year around and provide fresh produce for recipes.”

“Because the students attend my class for only one quarter,” she said, “the seasons really affect the experience for students who are in this course during the winter months. The greenhouse, she said, will provide “a more well-rounded experience” for students.

As of Aug. 29, the greenhouse was still under construction but expected to be finished “within a couple weeks,” said Priest.