Benedict’s Home & Garden invited the community to celebrate the spring and summer seasons Saturday. At its Open House, held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., there were free seminars by representatives from Prides Corner Farm, Sunny Borders Nurseries and the Plantage, hay rides, door prizes, refreshments and children’s activities.
“It’s our Customer Appreciation Day!” said John Flader, Nursery Manager.
He is married to Jane Benedict Flader, co-owner of the Purdy Hill Road garden center with her brother, Bruce. In the late 1940’s, their grandfather Ralph Benedict founded the business by selling feed to local farmers. His son, William — Jane and Bruce’s father — expanded the retail store’s inventory to include lawn and gardening equipment, plants, a nursery, pets, pet supplies and hardware merchandise.
Family and friends were on hand Saturday to help customers pick out perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees. Matt Flader, 18, a horticulture student at Naugatuck Valley Community College, feels that there’s a renewed interest in farming in Monroe. “People who never had a garden before are coming in saying that they want to start one,” he explained.
He said he has grown a variety of fruits and vegetables in his Monroe garden, such as potatoes and strawberries. “Food from the garden definitely tastes better,” Matt said.
His brother, Mark, is more of a farmer than a gardener. The 16-year-old sophomore at Masuk High School has been responsible for raising an eight-week old calf named Morgan. Morgan was enclosed in a small outdoor pen, where some rabbits and yellow baby chicks were also on display.
Mark said he purchased Morgan at a farm in Middlesex when she was a newborn. Morgan now weighs in at 200 pounds and she will grow to about 1,600 to 1,800 pounds. He feeds her one-half gallon of a special milk formula every morning and evening. Mark also takes her for walks. “Cows are my favorite animals,” Mark said.
Though Morgan spends time grazing in the fields on Benedict’s 70-acre-property, John said Morgan will become more familiar with Mark if he leads her on walks using a leash.
“He’s trying to keep Morgan more people-friendly,” John explained.
Morgan seemed content Saturday to visit with children and adults. Delighting the crowd, she even occasionally let out a dramatic “Moo!”
Several adult geese hovering nearby actually made more of a racket by squawking loudly. John said they were protecting goslings that had recently been born in a nest nearby.
Visitors were able to get up close and personal with 15 of the family’s 30 cows during a hayride that took them deep into the fields. Holding piles of grass over the sides of the tractor, cows boldly approached and scooped the "food" out of the outreached hands.
Charles Kirk and his wife, Megan, enjoyed watching their two-year old son Ethan interact with the animals. Currently residing in Newtown, the couple grew up in Monroe. In fact, Charles worked at Benedict’s when he was in high school, he said.
Georgia Yourieff, 19, a student at Marist College, has been working part-time at the Monroe home and garden center for three years. She was responsible for creating elaborate face painting designs on children’s faces at the Open House.
“Everyone here is so friendly,” Georgia said. “The majority of my friends are people I met while working here. I also really like the customers.”
Several families that showed up Saturday also brought their families to the Halloween festival hosted by Benedict’s Home & Garden last fall. The Taylor family said their son was asking where the hay stacks and pumpkins were.
Visitors were offered complimentary grilled hot dogs, chips, donuts and lemonade. Door prizes were gift certificates to Benedict’s, a hydrangea plant and a hanging basket.
For more information about Benedict’s Home & Garden, 480 Purdy Hill Road, call (203) 268-2537 or go to www.benedictsgarden.com.