Transition Montpelier State House Garden Project

At the January Transition Town Montpelier open space meeting, a small group of participants decided that they wanted to plant a vegetable garden on the State House grounds. Thursday, May 14, at 3:30 pm, was the official, ceremonial planting. The media were invited, as well as schoolchildren and various dignitaries.

The Transition Town Montpelier group is also recognized as APPLE Corps, with APPLE as an acronym for Association for Planting edible Public Landscapes for Everyone. The group has been meeting almost weekly since the January Transition Town meeting, and on April 20, the Capitol Complex Commission approved their plan. Earlier this month, they transplanted some seedlings and planted some seeds, to get things started.The APPLE Corps believes that they are be the first group in the nation to have plant a food garden on a State House lawn, and they hope that it will inspire much more planting of edible public landscape!

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Vermont Dedicates First State House Vegetable Garden in the Nation

APPLE Corps, Citizens Group, Hosts Food Garden Planting Event

MONTPELIER, VT: Vermont became the first state in the nation to dedicate a portion of its State House lawn as a vegetable garden at a planting event held in front of the Capitol building today. The food garden’s primary purposes are to inspire Vermonters to plant their own gardens, and to encourage novel ways to strengthen local food systems, according to the event’s organizer, the APPLE Corps, a recently formed citizen’s group.“Vermont is an agricultural state, but there are lots of Vermonters who have never had a food garden before -- myself included,” explains APPLE Corps member Caroline Abels. “The State House garden is meant to give folks an extra boost of inspiration -- and some basic information -- to get them started on growing their own gardens at home."

The State House food garden includes two 70-foot-long, 3-foot-wide, crescent-shaped beds in front of the Capitol Building. “State budget cuts would have left those two former flower beds fallow this year,” says APPLE Corps member Glenn Scherer. “But instead of bare ground, Vermonters visiting their capitol this summer will be greeted by a beautiful vegetable garden, tended by citizen volunteers, at no cost to the state of Vermont.”

The roughly 420-square-foot garden’s spring planting includes a colorful crop of chives, parsley, red cabbage, early bush peas, carrots, scallions, Swiss chard, beets, mustard greens, and 150 lettuce seedlings nurtured by Montpelier High School students. An early summer and late summer planting will follow in the same beds. All harvested vegetables will be donated to the local Montpelier Food Pantry.

“I am so excited to be part of this wonderful project,” says head gardener and APPLE Corps member Joann Darling. “The State House food garden is not only here to feed, but to inspire the hope that all can be fed.” Darling is a professional gardener whose local Gardens of Seven Gables has been active in the Montpelier Farmers Market.

The first State House Food Garden in the nation has a second major purpose: to serve as a new local food model, in which portions of public spaces are cultivated by citizen volunteers for the purpose of feeding those in need. “This is only a first step, we hope of many more steps, toward creating edible gardens on public lawns, and other open spaces around Vermont,” notes Zachary Brock an APPLE Corps member who will serve as this year’s assistant gardener at the State House vegetable garden.

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world -- or at least plant a 420-square-foot vegetable garden,” quips APPLE Corps member Carl Etnier. “We hope that the idea of planting public landscapes with food crops will spread to other state facilities, municipal lands, and land owned by institutions like churches, schools, and private companies. And we hope to see the food garden model develop from annual vegetable crops to perennial fruit and nut trees. In these economic hard times and declining oil availability, strong local food systems are important.”

Current plans call for a variety of gardening education programs at the State House food garden throughout the summer. "The State House Food Garden is a great vehicle for educating and inspiring Vermonters and visitors to plant their own gardens," says APPLE Corps member Scott Sawyer. The APPLE Corps will also be actively recruiting volunteers to help tend “Vermont’s garden.”

The APPLE Corps (Association for the Planting of edible Public Landscapes for Everyone) is an offshoot of Transition Town Montpelier. It has received tremendous backing for the State House Food Garden. State House curator David Schütz met with the group early on, and the garden was approved unanimously for a one year trial by the State House Capitol Complex Commission on April 20th. Support has come from all Washington County state senators, Montpelier’s state representatives, the office of Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, the chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the Northeast Organic Farming Association-VT, and Barre Community Gardens. APPLE Corps’ organizational sponsor is Food Works of Montpelier. The group received donations of all seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Hardwick, Vermont. Gardener’s Supply and Guys Farm and Yard have donated materials. Joey Klein of Littlewood Farm in Plainfield donated seedlings, as has Gardens of the Seven Gables in Barre. L. Brown & Sons Printing is donating brochures. Montpelier High School teacher Tom Sabo’s class grew lettuce starts. Black River Design donated weekly meeting space for the APPLE Corps.

“What better place than the State House lawn to plant a food garden, considering the large number of people who visit the golden dome, whether from in state, out of state, or Vermont school children,” says APPLE Corps member, Clare Rock. “Initiated by local citizens, the State House food garden demonstrates a grassroots commitment to promoting sustainability and local agriculture.”

The Vermont State House Food Garden Project comes on the heels of a March vegetable garden planting at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama. “I know that First Lady Maria Shriver has announced a new garden at the California statehouse, but, to my knowledge, Vermont’s State House food garden is the first to break ground and deserves credit for leading the way,” says Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International, the Maine-based nonprofit that led the campaign to replant a kitchen garden at the White House. “I'm also delighted to hear that the produce will be donated to food pantries. Good, healthy, and sustainably-produced foods should be available to all members of society and gardens like the one in Montpelier will play an important role in making that happen.”

Vermont State Garden

Photo: "At Statehouse, time for green thumbs," by Dave Gram, The Associated Press, May 15, 2009 (Times Argus - read article)


Further reading:

Transition Vermont:
Vermont State House Food Garden:

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