Sustainable Woodstock’s Gardening Initiatives

June has arrived and with it comes the long-awaited gardening season. As food prices continue to rise, many Vermonters will grow a garden as a low-cost and rewarding way to access fresh fruits and vegetables. During 2020 in the height of COVID, UVM’s food security survey found that more than 41% of survey respondents had engaged in producing their own food (backyard animals, fishing, foraging, gardening, hunting, or preserving) since the onset of COVID-19. Many of these people were pursuing these activities for the first time, or more intensely than in previous years. Sustainable Woodstock’s goal is to make gardening accessible to all, providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those who can’t garden, and this spring has been a busy gardening season for us.

This May, Sustainable Woodstock partnered with the Riverside Mobile Home Park in Woodstock to build six raised garden beds for residents. The beds were given to interested families so that they could grow a garden this season and for many years to come, and are a continuation of the food security work that Sustainable Woodstock has done at Riverside in the past. In 2010 Sustainable Woodstock helped build and maintain raised garden beds alongside individual homes at Riverside. After the park was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, we returned to rebuild those beds. Ten years later, we are pleased to add these six new beds to the park.

Al Pristaw, a resident of Riverside, approached Sustainable Woodstock in the spring with the idea to offer raised beds to residents at Riverside. Al is an avid gardener himself, and was willing to find residents who would appreciate the beds, as well as a community member to build them. He asked around and got a list of community members who would like a garden bed. He also enlisted the help and expertise of Dan Putnam and his brother Josh, who were experienced carpenters and willing to build the wooden beds. The last step was obtaining the funds for the beds, most of which Sustainable Woodstock received through a Community Action Team grant from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.* This grant allowed us to build six new beds out of local lumber from Van Alstyne’s Lumber Mill in Randolph and fill them with a local garden mix of compost and soil. 

Residents have already started planting seeds, vegetable seedlings, and strawberry plants in the garden beds. Some residents used seeds and seedlings from Sustainable Woodstock’s Grow Your Own Garden program (GYOG) to fill their gardens. This was the third year we have run the Grow Your Own Garden program, which offers free gardening starter kits to local individuals and families who would not otherwise have the means to purchase gardening supplies. Each kit includes a complete set of quality gardening tools, seeds, starter plants and a how-to book on gardening. The program helps make gardening possible for everyone, providing fresh fruits and vegetables to anyone interested in growing their own. This year Sustainable Woodstock gave away 50 GYOG kits to residents, plus 15 to the Upper Valley Haven, and we are using the rest of the seedlings in our Billings Farm Community Garden to grow vegetables for the Woodstock Food Shelf.  

Sustainable Woodstock also coordinates two community gardens in Woodstock: the King Farm Community Garden and the Billings Farm Community Garden. Last year we were able to increase the number of plots available in our community gardens, and offer plots on a sliding scale. This growth was in response to greater enrollment from families and individuals working to grow their own vegetables and herbs. We have also expanded the garden beds to include a sizeable space for growing food to be donated to the Haven and Woodstock Community Food Shelf. Our new Community Garden Coordinator Amy Wheeler is already working to tend to vegetables planted in our food security plots this year, including tomatoes, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, kale, cabbage, and asparagus. We invite anyone to stop by our community gardens to see what is growing!

* Sustainable Woodstock has received generous support for our food security programs and projects from the Vermont Community Foundation, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and Claremont Savings Bank Foundation.  The 2022 Grow Your Own Garden project was underwritten by a generous grant from the Green Mountain Foundation. Partners include Sherburne Farms, Yankee Bookshop, West Lebanon Seed & Supply, Woodstock Community Food Shelf and Woodstock Area Relief Fund. 

Strawberries bear fruit in one of the new raised beds at Riverside Mobile Home Park. (Photo ©2022 Jenevra Wetmore)

What can you do?

  • Grow a garden and share with neighbors and friends. No space for a garden? Fees to use plots at the Billings and King Farm gardens operate on a sliding scale.
  • Donate to your local food shelf. Donations don’t just have to be canned items–many food shelves appreciate fresh garden produce in the summer months!
  • Donate your time to a local food garden growing for food security, such as Sustainable Woodstock’s gardens, Willing Hands’ gardens or Change the World Kids gardens.


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