Community gardens

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(HOST) Not everyone has enough land to garden, but commentator Ron Krupp says that, in Vermont, community gardens offer a good alternative.

(KRUPP) I’d like to jump into the garden patch this spring and tell you about Community Gardening. Many towns throughout Vermont set aside parcels of land for families and individuals who don’t have space to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers. Brattleboro is in the process of looking for land for garden sites. Just like the resurgence of Farmers Markets in the last ten years, there is a demand for community gardening.

I am a member of the 165-plot Tommy Thompson Community Garden in the Intervale in Burlington, the largest garden of its kind in Vermont. Each plot is about 30 feet by 30 feet. In total, that comes to about three acres of gardens – a mighty amount of vegetables, flowers, herbs and, of course, lots of weeds. One plot can feed a family through the summer, fall and early winter.

I started gardening there 15 years ago because of the rich fertility of the flood plain soil along the Winooski River and because it’s a lovely, peaceful place to garden. I also enjoy the human community that grows each year. I’m surrounded by people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds who garden in their own unique ways.

Recent immigrants use techniques and grow varieties native to their countries. The Mai family from Vietnam grow their greens in beds. They introduced me to vegetables completely new to my palate. Five years ago, a woman from the Ukraine, Aida Sarkisova, brought heirloom tomato seeds from her native country and shared them with other gardeners. In 2001, ten Bosnian families joined the community gardens. We had a pot-luck picnic where we were treated to many ethnic Bosnian dishes. In 2004, 15 Somali Bantu families took part in the gardens.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Burlington community garden system had more than 20 acres in production on 800 plots in 20 different locations. On a per capita basis, Burlington was considered to be The Community Garden Capital of the country.

Community Gardens have been converting vacant lots and open space in cities throughout the U. S. into gardens for many years. The Liberty Gardens of WWI and Victory Gardens of WWII helped to feed the nation, save energy and bring new vigor to the urban enclaves.

Today, the community gardens in Burlington are administered by Burlington Parks and Recreation along with a strong volunteer base. And it’s still true that no one is turned away because of lack of funds.

This is Ron Krupp, the Northern Gardener.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.

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