Monday, April 23, 2012

When One Door Closes...

With the rains and flooding from Tropical Store Irene on August 28, 2012, we lost the Hardwick Community Garden to the Lamoille River.

It was dispiriting to see all the hard work over the past few years disappear with the topsoil, vegetables and flowers only to be replaced with silt, sand and rocks. Just months before, in January, we had lost 2/3 of the garden first to flooding from an ice jam, a regular occurance in that part of the river, and then to the damage caused by the heavy machinery needed to break the jam and save the town from flooding. 

The following April, with the help of students from Sterling College and our dedicated group of gardeners, we moved stone and debris, re-tilled, raked in new compost, fixed beds and repaired the damage done. We were hopeful and excited as we planned our workshops, reached out to new gardeners and the local school who made up new gardens and got on with the business of community gardening. We had no idea what the end of summer and the height of harvest would bring - not just to us, but to the entire State of Vermont as people everywhere dealt with the loss of their businesses, homes, farms and livliehood in the wake of the massive flood waters that forever changed the topography of our State.

To say our gardeners and our staff were discouraged, is an understatement. With sadness and even some frustration, we made the decision to close the Community Garden. 

Yet, thankfully, that wasn't the end of the story. Once decided to close the gardens, we realized it would give us a chance to take a breath and assess what came next. Staying on the land by the river, owned by the Town of Hardwick, was no longer an option, but where would we go?  How would we pay for it? What does it mean for our very first program as a non-profit organization that lended us our first grant and foray into agriculture in Hardwick? 

With a handful of planning meetings under our belt, a letter from the Friends of Burlington Gardens assuring us a small and necessary grant for relocation, we have moved forward with plans to re-open the Hardwick Community Gardens on our property at Atkins Field in April 2013. Relocating the gardens to our property will assure that the gardens can continue on land designated for agricultural use and it's exposure to southern sun, access to water and higher ground a bit safer from flooding added up to an ideal fit for the new future of the gardens. 

Last week, on April 17th, community gardeners, students from Sterling College and staff from the Center for an Agricultural Economy, cleaned up the former site of the Hardwick Community Garden - taking down the tool tent, cleaning up the debris and lastly, removing the sign that marked the entrance. 

For me, as someone who has recently given up coordination of the gardens to my capable and community-minded colleague Heather Davis, the day was bittersweet, but I look forward to sharing the rest of the story over the next year as we prepare to reopen the new site on Earth Day 2013.

Yours in food, farming and affection,

Elena Gustavson
Program Director
Center for an Agricultural Economy

A few days after the flood in August 2011

Taking down the tent

Taking down the sign

The crew from Sterling College


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