Community helps Our Place vegetable gardens grow

BELLOWS FALLS — The vegetable gardens at Our Place Drop-in Center are thriving thanks to the help of several local groups and a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF).

Bellows Falls Rotary Club members Ryan Ostebo and Eric Anderson built raised beds and a handicapped-accessible planter with lumber donated by Carl Mosher of Putney and filled with soil provided by Bazin Brothers and wood chips from Allen Brothers.

Young people employed in the Youth Serves program of Youth Services have been tending the gardens weekly, weeding, adding compost, and tending the plants. Our Place employees and guests and students from the Compass School and Vermont Academy have also helped.

In addition, materials for a hoop house to start seedlings were purchased with funds from the Healthy Communities Coalition grant from the Meeting Waters YMCA, made possible by the Fanny Holt Ames and Edna Louise Holt Foundation.

The VCF grant provided funds to add 12 hours a week to a part-time employee's schedule to manage the garden project, which has provided time to recruit, schedule, and educate community volunteers, as well as do some of the necessary labor to produce an abundance of crops.

Our Place cook Matt Gowell regularly visits the garden to harvest string beans, lettuce, zucchini, cilantro, parsley, cucumbers, basil, and other herbs.

“I'm looking forward to picking our own tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and peppers,” he said recently.

Gowell also helps tend two plots at the Bellows Falls Community Garden, where he is planting fall crops. The garden's coordinators are also growing other crops for Our Place, including black beans.

Our Place Director Lisa Pitcher explained that a component of the garden project is to organize and teach volunteers to can or freeze the abundance of produce that is donated to the center in the fall.

“People will be able to take the preserved food home to use in their meals or donate it to our kitchen,” she said. “Also, by helping people develop a better understanding of the value of locally grown food from small farms, home or community gardens, we hope to encourage an appreciation of the value of locally-grown food and support for the local food systems.”

Our Place, a daytime drop-in center that offers help with food and other essential needs in a non-judgmental, safe, and respectful atmosphere, will commemorate its 20th anniversary with an event on Thursday, Sept. 13, that will include a gathering of other area food providers to explore ways they can work together to meet the food needs of their communities.

More information about Our Place is available at, or contacting them at 802-463-2217 or [email protected].

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