The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared April to be “National Gardening Month,” and Vermont has much to celebrate. Although garden season gets a later start in Vermont (May or June is more like it!), our state has a vibrant, active, gardening culture.
“Vermonters care very deeply about where there food comes from,” said Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross. “So it is no surprise that gardens play an important role here in our state.”
According to the Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN), Vermont has more than 400 community gardens. Located at schools, parks, and shared spaces across the state, these community gardens provide many benefits. VCGN notes that community gardens help neighbors develop friendships and support systems, allow children to try (and like!) new foods, build awareness of environmental issues, and help transform neglected land into productive space that provides fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables.
Vermont also has a robust network of Master Gardeners. Since the University of Vermont Extension founded the Master Gardener program in 1991, more than 3,000 Vermonters have completed the course, which includes 45 hours of instruction in plant and soil science. Students are also required to complete a 40 hour internship, focused on garden projects that benefit the community. Currently, there are more than 900 certified Extension Master Gardeners in the state, who are actively servicing their communities by performing outreach and education activities (minimum of 20 hours annual service to their communities).
Vermont also has one of the nation’s most robust Farm-to-School programs – 89 percent of Vermont schools report that they participate in Farm-to-School programming. Gardens are an important part of the curriculum for many of these schools.
This is the first year National Gardening Month has been recognized by the USDA. Secretary Tom Vilsack signed the official declaration in April of this year. However, the National Gardening Association (NGA), headquartered in Williston, has been promoting National Gardening Month as an awareness-building opportunity for many years. Founded in 1972, The NGA is a Vermont-based national non-profit that advocates for garden-based education. To date, The NGA has supported more than 10,000 school and youth garden programs across the globe.
Despite the relatively short growing season, garden culture is thriving in Vermont. And with more daylight and warmer weather ahead, Vermonters will have many opportunities to get outside and get gardening this season.