Every day Vermonters struggle to obtain nutritious and affordable foods, vegetables in particular. Thankfully, an increasing number of charitable food centers such as our volunteer Farm/Garden Project and the Vermont Food Bank are working together to overcome this problem. Food centers, however, struggle to maintain a reliable supply of donations and keeping centers stocked is a real challenge. The Farm Project aims to make a measurable contribution towards keeping Vermont’s food centers well stocked with high quality produce.
Mission: To grow high quality produce – using sustainable practices – for donation to food shelves and charitable food centers throughout Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Additionally, the Farm will be used to educate people in ways to improve their health, the environment and the general well being of the local community.
History: Thanks to a caring citizen’s donation of the use of former farmland, the Farm was founded in 2009 and is now growing over an acre of fruits and vegetables. During the 2010 growing season, the Farm yielded almost 14,000 pounds of fresh produce which was distributed to and through eight local food shelves, six free meal sites and one school. In 2011, the garden again provided approximately the same yield, which was similarly distributed. By 2012, the garden was operated entirely by local St Johnsbury area volunteers.
In 2011, a second garden was started in Danville on land donated by a local church. Although it did provide a few thousand pounds of crops, the soil needs a great deal of enrichment and may not be suitable for farming this year.
In 2012, additional gardens were planted in Barnet, Lyndonville and Westmore and sites were explored and volunteers sought in several other communities.
For the past several years, we have helped to harvest and distribute large amounts of corn planted for charity by a local Barnet farmer and will do so again this year. We also plan to continue to glean corn, beans, etc as local farmers make crop overages available.
The American Community Garden Association describes their gardens this way:
Benefits of Community Gardens:
- Improve the quality of life for people in the garden
- Stimulate social interaction
- Encourage self-reliance, beautify neighborhoods, produce nutritious foods
- Reduce family food budgets
- Conserve resources
- Provide a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
- Create opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy and education
- Create income opportunities and economic development
- Provide opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections