Garden Spotlight: Edible Brattleboro

“Grow Gardens Everywhere for Everyone”

By Marilyn Chiarello (Edible Brattleboro) & Libby Weiland (VCGN)

In January, 2015, Edible Brattleboro founder Marilyn Chiarello was first inspired to bring edible landscapes to Brattleboro after viewing Pam Warhurst’s TED Talk, entitled “How We Can Eat Our Landscapes.” With the support of Post Oil Solutions, a not-for-profit that develops sustainable practices in the community, several area residents set out to transform spaces in and around town into edible landscapes, planting vegetables and fruits in help-yourself gardens. In Marilyn’s words: “We hope to inspire our community and neighbors to do the same, and invite you to join us in our mission to Grow Food Everywhere for Everyone.”

Public Help-yourself Gardens & Share the Harvest Stand

Edible Brattleboro (EB) is an all-volunteer group, run by a steering committee that meets bi-weekly. Volunteers oversee two locations in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont–one on the green strip at the back of the Brattleboro Food Co-op parking plot and the other on the front yard of Turning Point recovery center. These sites were picked due to interest on the part of the onsite partner organization as well as their very “public” locations–key details when encouraging “help yourself” harvesting. To encourage picking, volunteers
regularly post signage about what’s ready for harvest–green signs next to the veggies ready to be picked, along with
instructions for harvesting. The public harvests much of the produce themselves; however, if produce remains, EB volunteers harvest and bring it to the Share the Harvest veggie stand, on Sundays, 11am-1pm, located at the Turning Point garden. Share the Harvest is an EB project that operates July – October, offering fresh local produce at no cost. This produce is gleaned from EB gardens, donations from farmers at the end of Saturday market, and local gardeners. Typically the stand “sells out.” Last year about 150 residents were served through the stand, amounting to thousands of pounds of produce shared.

Satellite Gardens

And the movement is growing! Just this year, EB volunteers started responding to additional requests for establishing gardens and edible landscaping around town: including 3 peach trees planted at Tripark mobile home cooperative, 2 raised beds and fencing at Great River Terrace for chronically homeless residents, pear trees at Oak Grove School with the help of 4th graders, and 10 container gardens at The Root Center for Social Justice. EB volunteers help to fund projects through grant writing, through special donations, and with matching funds from site partners where appropriate. Each participating site partner signs an agreement that they’re in charge of maintaining the gardens, if there’s a problem or advice is needed EB volunteers will step in to help out. Also outlined in the agreement is that the harvest is available for everyone, not just for those who’ve maintained the beds — a core value of Edible Brattleboro. According to Marilyn, “It’s not a matter of ownership, but a matter of sharing and community-building. We do this with the understanding that it may take some time to shift that culture.” The group continues to get more and more calls and emails asking about the program, but can only respond as capacity allows. New projects coming up include fruit trees on the municipal lawn and at Green Street School.

Community Workshops & Meals

In addition to getting fresh food out into the community, Edible Brattleboro seeks opportunities for community building and education. A variety of outside groups offer workshops at EB sites, including an herbalism class utilizing some of the public beds for instruction. In addition, EB volunteers organize a series of cooking and eating events where community members prepare and enjoy a meal together from garden produce. Last year–through the summer and then the cooler months–the group hosted events at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, including a special Celebrate Salad Event, and themed meals featuring butternut squash and comfort food. At satellite gardens, the group hopes to utilize community kitchens for special workshops around meal prep and using garden produce. For the public spaces Marilyn dreams of someday creating a “People’s Kitchen.” “Sometimes when I offer people produce they say, ‘I want this but don’t have a place to cook it…’. If people had a place to go they could come and cook the food themselves and have something…”

EB is also committed to educating others about healthy soil. They do this primarily through their sheet mulching, no-dig method of gardening, demonstrated at all EB gardens. Marilyn points to several excellent resources in the area all about building healthy soil, including Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition and seminars and online courses with Didi Pershouse from the Land and Leadership Initiative.

I want to start a “Grow Food Everywhere” project in my community. Where should I start?

Marilyn: “ These projects are going to be different from one group and community to the next. Watch PamWarhurst’s TED Talk to get inspired. Then host a gathering—show the TED Talk and get people together to hear what your community has to say. Identify a place to have flagship garden–accessible land, interested partner, centrally located–and it grows from there.”

Edible Brattleboro needs more volunteers to help with this great work! Get involved locally or check out EB’s online resources at

Contact Marilyn and other EB volunteers at

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