Community Partnerships: Ludlow Community Garden

By Libby Weiland, Statewide Network Coordinator

This summer I paid a visit to Ludlow Community Garden, tucked away behind the Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts, in the small south central Vermont town of Ludlow. As I drove over the creek and around the bend to the far back fields, I was surprised to find a full parking lot and two pop-up tents set up in the garden and tables lined with a potluck feast. The group was celebrating their annual potluck, bringing together gardeners and community partners to celebrate the harvest. This peaceful, tucked away parcel of garden paradise is a surprisingly active hub. The garden not only hosts a community of gardeners, but also works closely with local youth programs, grows extra produce for the food shelf and senior center, and runs a community composting site for gardener food scrap drop off and resident compost education. Here’s what garden coordinator, Rosa Donohue and Extension Master Gardener and Composter, Phil Carter shared with us about the reciprocal impact of these partnerships. Click here to see photos from our visit.

Q: Why does Ludlow Community Garden value community partnerships?

A: Because it provides a venue to share gardening information, skills, resources, as well as socialization and education opportunities (gardening and food scrap composting).

Q: What are a few of your favorite partnerships? Tell us a little about how they function.

A: First would be our partnership with the Windsor County Youth Services. An average of 12-15 teenage boys and girls from their two local shelters are active participants in the garden throughout each summer. Ten or more scholarship plots are made available to them each year. They grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs which they use to cook their daily meals. Any excess is frozen or given to the local food shelf. They learn all about preparing the soil, planting, fertilizing, weeding, composting and harvesting. They help maintain the paths in the garden and also help keep other gardeners’ plots who may be away temporarily or sick. The girls’ shelter raises goats. They have more goat manure than they can use, so they bring it to the garden to add to our compost piles.

Another partnership is with the local Black River Good Neighbors Services (BRGN, Food Shelf and Thrift Shop). Two plots are dedicated to growing extra food to donate. In addition, gardeners also contribute any excess produce they may have from their individual plots. The fresh vegetables are delivered to the food shelf and are greatly appreciated by many families and individuals from Ludlow and neighboring towns who apply for the food shelf assistance.

Some of the kids from the above shelters may arrive with only what they are wearing. Sometimes, they take the extra produce from their plots to the BRGN food shelf, and while there, they can always find some clothes & shoes at the BRGN thrift shop at no cost to them.

One recent partnership is with the Senior Center. They have also been receiving some of the extra produce. Through our contacts at the local American Legion, we learned that the Senior Center’s daily meals seldom includes any fresh vegetables so they are now very happy to receive whatever the garden produces for them. This partnership will help us to raise awareness among its participants about gardening and growing vegetables. We have waist-high beds some of the seniors may want to try next year.

Our most important partnership, of course, is with the Fletcher Farm Foundation. They allow us to have the garden in their property and we provide opportunities for gardening and food scrap composting education.

And we can’t forget our partnership with UVM Extension Master Gardener Program.  The garden is a place where new interns, Master Gardeners and Master Composters can volunteer and receive credit for their hours of service.  The garden benefits not just from their gardening help but also from their knowledge of vegetable gardening and composting which they share with all.

Q: What has your group done well that’s lead to success in your community partnerships?

A: Getting to know and trust each other and developing an informal and friendly environment where everyone shares responsibilities and benefits in one way or another.

Q: What challenges have you come up against related to these partnerships? How have you addressed them?

A: Luckily, none, so far.

Q: What is your favorite memory related to Ludlow Community Garden’s community partnerships?

A: Seeing how most of the kids (from the shelters) develop interest in vegetable gardening. Each year we get a different group of youngsters. Their reactions at first are similar, no clue about gardening, freaking out when they see some of the bugs, surprise and awe when plants start producing vegetables they are not familiar with like eggplant, tomatillos, amaranth, garlic, okra, turnips, different squashes, herbs, etc.

Q: Any other tips for other community garden groups looking to foster strong relationships with their community?

A: Relationships must be a friendly, must have some type of benefit for all parties involved, a give and take situation. Establish good communication, keep in touch, invite people to visit the garden.

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