Keene Community Garden Connections (CGC), which was inspired by an Antioch University New England (AUNE) master’s project just a few years ago, has quickly made an impact on the community. Community gardens at six sites —soon to be more—involve Keene citizens, young and old, in growing food. In another related project, employees at three C&S Wholesale Grocers locations grew enough food last year to donate 465 pounds of produce to community kitchens.
But it’s much more than the food, said Libby McCann, core faculty member and director of the Environmental Education concentration in AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies. “Strengthening connections in the community: that’s the top priority and goal of the program,” she said. People come together while building and planting the raised-bed gardens. During six workshops and three community forums in the last two years, more than 250 participants gathered.
It’s also about building the resiliency of the community through better access to food. “A resilient community makes food security a priority, and we live in a community that does make that a priority,” said Libby Weiland, MS ’12, who is now the program manager for the Vermont Community Garden Network in Burlington, Vermont. “It’s making our community a more vibrant place to be and a truly more food-secure place to be.”
It’s a great benefit to AUNE students, too, who learn a wide range of useful skills including educational design, budgeting, planning, evaluation, engaging stakeholders, and hiring staff.
C&S Wholesale Grocers Workplace Gardens
At C&S locations in Keene, Brattleboro, Vermont, and North Hatfield, Massachusetts, AUNE student coordinators worked with 130 gardeners on a total of 114 garden sites last year, and taught people about organic gardening at sixteen educational events. “It’s amazing to see what it did for the workplace community,” said Perry Cohen, vice president for human resources at C&S and an AUNE trustee.
CGC was established with the help of a private donation from the Rashti Foundation.