Barlow graduate receives agriculture award

Olivia Greenspan hopes to redevelop G&B wire mill site

Joel Barlow graduate Olivia Greenspan accepting the Lyman Wells Young Agriculturist Award at the Fairfield County Farm Bureau annual picnic at Copps Island Oysters in Norwalk. She shakes hands with Bruce Benedict, Board Member of Fairfield County Farm Bureau and President and General Manager of Benedict’s Home and Garden.

Joel Barlow graduate Olivia Greenspan accepting the Lyman Wells Young Agriculturist Award at the Fairfield County Farm Bureau annual picnic at Copps Island Oysters in Norwalk. She shakes hands with Bruce Benedict, Board Member of Fairfield County Farm Bureau and President and General Manager of Benedict’s Home and Garden.

Joel Barlow graduate Olivia Greenspan was recently awarded the Lymann Wells Young Agriculturist scholarship from the Connecticut Farm Bureau.

The $750 scholarship supports a young person in Connecticut who has a serious commitment to agriculture.

This award makes Greenspan one step closer to her goal of regenerating Redding’s Gilbert & Bennett wire mill site — she hopes to build an indoor farm on it.

Greenspan’s passion for agricultural technology began through a program called Re:Wire, in which she was involved while at Barlow.

Re:Wire was an initiative started by Redding artist Jane Philbrick, the founder of Today’s Industrial Living Landscapes (TILL). The intent of the program was to encourage Redding youths to take an active role in deciding the future of the wire mill. It involved pre-development work on starting an indoor farm at the Gilbert and Bennett site.

“Jane’s idea was to engage the most unlikely but most important constituents in the town’s planning process, which are its young people,” Greenspan said. “We are the future of the town.”

Through her research, Greenspan learned about a technology called hydroponics, which is a method of growing plants in water without soil.

“It’s cool because it increases yield and takes up less space. It uses up to 98% less water than soil-based farming,” said Greenspan, 20, who is now an economics major at Fordham University in the Bronx, where she became even more interested in hydroponics.

“I wanted to learn about how indoor farming can help save the world,” Greenspan said. “We need to find ways to technologically create new, arable land and as farming practices have gotten more intensive, this is also a way to help relieve some of the pressure and the world’s farmland.  With the process of hydroponics, you can grow food indoors.”

Greenspan joined Fordham University’s campus community garden in order to learn more about sustainable farming practices. She became president of the university’s community farm.

“The indoor farming industry would be consistent with the ecological heritage of Redding and the industrial working spirit of Georgetown,” Greenspan said.

She said indoor farming would be a commercial anchor for Redding.

“It would diversify its tax base, which is largely residential, and it would provide Georgetown residents with fresh local produce year round,” Greenspan said. “You would be able to get strawberries grown five miles from you in the dead of winter.”

Aside from building an indoor farm on the wire mill site, she also hopes to build affordable housing for artists on it.

After she completes work on the G&B site, she eventually hopes to travel around the world to regenerate other blighted properties.

Philbrick said Greenspan has shown great dedication to re-developing the G&B site.

“Olivia and I have been working together since she was 14 years old, when she joined the Re:Wire Student Atelier as a sophomore at Joel Barlow High School,” Philbrick said. “Olivia led the Food and Farming vertical at the Atelier for two years, researching local food and agritech innovations to be implemented in re-visioning Gilbert & Bennett mill redevelopment.”

Philbrick called Greenspan a visionary young entrepreneur with a passionate commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

“The Fairfield County Farm Bureau chose well awarding her the Lyman Welles Scholarship,” Philbrick said. “No one who knows her doubts for a moment that she will change the world to be healthier, more prosperous and compassionate, starting here at home.”

For all prior Pilot stories on the Gilbert & Bennett wire mill site, visit https://www.thereddingpilot.com/?s=gilbert+%26+bennett.

 

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