REDDING, Conn. — Redding's Peter Hastings knows a thing or two about how to grow good tomatoes.
When he was a child, his father helped transform a vacant lot across from his house into a victory garden with a neighbor's mule, a plow and some manual labor.
Hastings carries on his father’s tradition today at the Meadow Ridge retirement living community in Redding near Georgetown and the border with Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton. You can find him most days in the garden with his cigar as he traverses what the residents affectionately call “the farm” in his Sperry boat shoes.
The farm contains countless crops — from peaches to figs. Each harvest — boxes of tomatoes in Thursday's case — is brought down to the community's mailroom, where the residents are encouraged to take one tomato each.
Hastings, who lived in Westport for many years, also gives a large share of the fruits and vegetables to the community's dining facility. The chef develops creative meals for the residents using Hastings's produce, a representative for the community said.
“This all goes to the kitchen,” Hastings told the Daily Voice on Thursday, motioning to two boxes chock full of tomatoes.
The Daily Voice's tour of the garden was soon briefly interrupted by Ben Buonomo, who says he is the farm's "custodian."
He informed Hastings that a quail was trying to get into one of the farm's sheds.
When Hastings arrived in front of the shed to investigate, he found a quail — one of the 25 or so he is raising. “Alright, Ebenezer,” he gingerly prodded.
True to the definition of a farm, Hastings has animals besides quail. He also takes care of pheasants that he procures from a farm in Sharon, Conn.
While every Southern Connecticut homeowner knows that animals can present a problem for gardeners, Hastings said he has pretty good luck. He said he has never been bitten by a tick or stung by a bee in all his years gardening in Redding. But he does keep the sheds locked to keep the deer out.
He also told a Daily Voice reporter to keep a safe distance from the farm’s beehive as he showed him around the farm.
Of the garden, the farm, and all of its bounty, Buonomo described the atmosphere best.
“It’s like having a farmers market in your backyard," he said.
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