Burlington initiative encouraging gardeners to donate extra harvest

Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 6:49 AM EDT
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The city of Burlington says it needs your help to harvest 100,000 pounds of fresh produce by the end of the season.

City leaders say hundreds of Burlington residents have already signed up to raise seedlings into fresh fruits and vegetables and they say it's easy for you to get started this week, too.

"I think it's a really innovative program. I got excited about it!" said Burlington City Councilor Karen Paul.

Paul decided to get into gardening for the first time so she could participate in the effort putting a purpose behind the blossoming interest in home gardening.

"We know that there are many people struggling particularly at this time, and I think it's important for us to do whatever we can to make our local food system more resilient," said Paul.

Paul says she's doing her part by building a garden bed in her backyard. Now, she says it's ready to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for Feeding Chittenden.

"I will plant whatever seedlings they have," said Paul.

This Friday, the city will distribute seedlings that'll produce food from tomatoes and peppers to kale and cabbage at five locations including Biben's Ace Hardware, BCA Studios, Brixton's Halaal Market, Nepali Market and 405 Pine Street.

The idea to create Plant for the People was to help home gardeners supplement their gardens so surplus goods could go to Feeding Chittenden.

"This is just another way for us to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we're able to distribute, which is always our highest demand product," said Hannah Harrington with Feeding Chittenden.

But until now, the food shelf didn't have a way to organize produce donated by the community.

"We found this very thing needed to happen last season. When the city came to us with this idea, it was pretty perfect. It was exactly what we needed. They are filling a hole in our collection system," said Angela Debettencourt with Feeding Chittenden.

"It feels like there's an opportunity here for us to expand what we do as a city in this area. We have an incredible group of residents and people who are kind of joining this effort. We'd like to see that go on past the crisis," said Brian Lowe, the chief innovation officer with the City of Burlington.

So far, the city has spent about $3,600 of its $10,000 budget on seedlings donated and discounted by Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg.

For Paul, it's also a chance to collaborate with neighbors and contribute what she can to the city's goal to grow 100,000 pounds of homemade produce.

"If those of us who are able get into this and are able to just do a small amount, I think we can accomplish that goal," said Paul.

After Friday, the next distribution date is in August. City leaders say they hope it'll encourage the community to grow a second round of produce, providing Feeding Chittenden through the fall.

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