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Ruah Swennerfelt | Contributor

When you walk from the parking lot to the library, you’ll walk right by a little vegetable garden, and you might ask why the library would want a vegetable garden instead of beautiful flowers. Why would people want the work of planning, planting, tending, harvesting and cleaning up a garden? And in fact, who is taking care of it?

A number of years ago Transition US promoted a “May Challenge” to Transition Towns across America. The challenge was to grow food in public places to begin the transition to creating community resilience and a stronger local economy as well as living and working together as a community. It was also a challenge to use less fossil fuel by eliminating lawns that often are mowed with gasoline lawn mowers.

Transition Town Charlotte (a Vermont nonprofit organization) volunteers took the challenge, approached the Selectboard and were directed to Margaret Woodruff, the library director, who gave us a great big “Yes!” That year, to make it simple, we planted a potato garden right next to the library. We received so many wonderful, positive comments about our little garden. And at the end of the growing season we celebrated by hosting a “Spud Fest” where people brought all sorts of potato dishes to share. It was a great evening. The potatoes from the garden were donated to the Charlotte Food Shelf.

The next year we were more ambitious and added a lovely bean teepee (where children can crawl in and enjoy the space) and some cherry tomatoes and flowers. The library employees often picked the tomatoes and put them out on the desk where children loved sampling them. Since that second year—we’re now into our fifth year—we’ve added slicing tomatoes, greens, beets, peas, blueberries and strawberries plus a few other vegetables. The children delight in the fruits and the Food Shelf has more fresh vegetables to provide to those in need. The number of volunteers has grown, and it’s a wonderful collaboration with the library.

It’s a lovely tale, and there are three other gardens worth mentioning here. There are gardens at the Charlotte Central School, the Charlotte Congregational Church and the Charlotte Children’s Center. At all four gardens children are included in the gardening and learn so much about tender care of living plants. Hopefully, as the children grow up in a world that is likely to be quite different from the one that we know, they will look back on these experiences not only as cherished memories but also as a time when they began to acquire the skills and knowledge to thrive in that new world.

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