To catch those of you who have not been following the story of the Gardens up to speed, in 2011 Tropical Storm Irene had wiped out the Hardwick Community Gardens, which was located on Hardwick town property, at the end of the growing season - washing away everybody’s food and hard work. This flood followed multiple other floods throughout the years, so it was not an anomalous event. These events dampened the spirits of the gardeners and few of them wanted to return to the site – and why would they when they were losing all of their food and hard work, not to speak of the soil and investment in compost they were making?
The Center for an Agricultural Economy, who organizes the Gardens, offered up some space on a piece of property that they had purchased in 2007, called Atkins Field. The vision of the property and the intent of the purchase were to develop a community agricultural center, and movement toward fulfilling this vision had begun the previous year with the relocation of the Hardwick Farmers’ Market to the site. Besides providing the opportunity for establishing the gardens at a permanent site, the site is less prone to flooding, and an investment of infrastructure, such as raised beds, composting facilities, and access to water, could be made.
So, plans began to relocate and the Gardens took a hiatus for the 2012 season so that attention could be focused upon planning and constructing the gardens properly. It was decided that the best option for the new site was to construct raised beds at the site and grants were applied for and received from the Vermont Community GardenNetwork and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund.
This brings us to the actual construction of the Gardens. It was wonderful - the support that was felt from the community on these workdays. Everyone gave their all and an unbelievable amount was done – we constructed twenty-eight raised beds, as well as spreading wood chips in the paths between the beds and laying down a weed barrier. A few weeks later, employees of Vermont Natural Coatings, based in Hardwick, volunteered an afternoon to spray the wood of the beds with a special formulation of stain they have developed specifically for raised beds, which they had donated.
When asked about why the volunteers had decided to spend a lovely fall day (or two) using power tools, raking, and shoveling, we received some very telling answers. Hardwick resident, Sarah Morgan, said, “Community gardens, like farmer's markets and independent bookstores, are a cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant community and as such should be nourished and supported! Plus I love that the new location joins the garden and market, and having battled (and lost against) the weeds at the old community garden site, I think the raised beds are a GREAT plan and will allow even the most novice of gardeners to grow yummy food (or beautiful flowers) successfully.” Another volunteer, Robert Appel, revealed, “I am a life- long vegetable gardener and get great pleasure out [of] raising my own food. The Community Gardens provide that same opportunity to a wide array of individuals who may have never had the opportunity to ‘grow their own.’ There are immense possibilities of where the Community Gardens may grow in terms of integrating the local sustainable agriculture movement into the village community life of Hardwick. I also enjoy working with my neighbors towards a common objective.”
Where would we, as an organization, be without such wonderful, engaged citizens? Where would we, as a town, be without them? It really does take a community, and we see this over and over again in this lovely little town. When we work together, we can accomplish amazing things, and Hardwick is a shining example of this!