Hope abounds in Hardwick hoop house

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Posted: April 20, 2016

by Community Projects Coordinator Bethany M. Dunbar

Spring is the season for hope, and here at the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) in Hardwick hope abounds in our brand new community hoop house. We put it up last fall thanks to a donation in memory of Vernon Alper, a community gardener. It was built by volunteers led by contractor Mike  Feiner of Vine Ripe Construction and took us three days, even though most of us had never done such a thing. Thanks again to the awesome crew of volunteers who made this happen.

Seedlings wait to be planted in buckets during a Grow Your Own container gardening session    

As the weird, almost snowless winter slogged by, we’ve all been waiting a bit more anxiously than usual for weather that would be warm enough to allow us to get in there and plant some seeds!

On April 2 we finally got our first chance as we held our Grow Your Own container gardening gathering inside the hoop house at Atkins Field.

Grow Your Own is a project of CAE, the Hardwick Area Food Pantry (HAFP) and NEK Kids on the Move. Through GYO our volunteers and friends give away seeds and information at the pantry, hold monthly gatherings on topics like gardening, cooking, and preserving, and this year we are launching a pilot garden mentorship program.

Ruby Dale-Brown, the executive director of HAFP, led the first gathering in the hoop house. We had 18 people and media attention. Vanessa Fournier of the Hardwick Gazette came and took photos, and Leif Goldberg of Hardwick Community Television filmed the whole thing. Thanks to that video, if you missed the gathering but would like to know about this slick method of growing plants in self-watering buckets, you can watch it here:


Part of the mission for the hoop house is to host Hardwick Elementary School classes. What a joy it was to host three elementary school classes in the new hoop house this month!

Each class walked the eight minutes from the school to Atkins Field, planted some seeds, and learned about the history of the field. Some classes did a considerable amount of scientific measurements and drawing with their classroom teachers and with art teacher Beth LeCours. Others wrote in journals about the activity. Julie Magoon’s third-grade class is experimenting with planting in three types of soils: sand, regular compost, and worm castings.

Alicia Benoit-Clerk’s first- and second-graders prepare to plant seeds.

We will host a fourth class next week, and we hope they will all come back very soon to see how their little seedlings are doing.

Guess what? Some of the seeds from the first classes have sprouted and started to grow already!!

Later this month and early next month, we will have some help from some older students with garden projects including building more garden beds and planting fruit trees and bushes as part of our permaculture plan. Hazen Union middle schoolers came in the fall to help build new garden beds. They are hard workers and full of energy. We can’t wait to work with them again.

Thanks again to all who have helped make these classes happen. Special thanks to Julie Nichols who takes care of the baby seedlings and keeps track of the temperature in the hoop house, rolling up and down the sides as needed to keep things not too hot and not too

Julie Magoon’s third-grade class conducting a scientific experiment, documenting and measuring carefully.

cold. Also to Matt Pietryka and Anthony Nichols, our lead builders.

Interested in getting involved? Please get in touch with me at bethany@hardwickagriculture.org or call (802) 472-5362 ext. 204.

I hope your spring is hopeful, productive and fulfilling.


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