Editor's Note Summer 2009

Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee plants lettuce at a ceremony in the State House Food Garden
Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee plants lettuce at a ceremony in the State House Food Garden

Written By

Caroline Abels

Written on

June 01 , 2009

Anyone who has walked across the Vermont State House lawn in Montpelier knows it is different from any other lawn in the state. A wooden statue reputed to be Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture, stares down from the State House dome, appearing to sow seeds on the grass. A marble Ethan Allen standing at the State House door glares with fiery eyes at all who pass. A stately walkway guides visitors to an imposing granite building where important (and sometimes infuriating) decisions are made. No other place in Vermont feels so formal and heavy with history.

In other words, whatever happens on the State House lawn has more meaning because it’s happening on the State House lawn. Rallies, celebrations, even picnics take on added significance when they’re held there.

Which is why a small group of Vermonters recently decided to plant a vegetable garden on the State House lawn. The idea was to send a message that food gardens matter—they can add to one’s health and pocketbook, and can provide a guaranteed food supply in unsettled times. The thinking of the group went like this: Vermont is an agricultural state, yet most Vermonters don’t have their own vegetable gardens; since knowledge about how to grow food has largely been lost, folks need some basic information on how to start a garden of their own; and since the State House lawn is such a prominent place, a vegetable garden there could inspire people to turn their brown thumbs into green ones.

After months of planning, the new Vermont State House Food Garden was planted during the first two weeks of May. I was privileged to be one of the seven Vermonters (we call ourselves “the APPLE Corps”) who successfully guided the project through to completion. The garden is located in the crescent-shaped beds that line the curved walkways in front of the State House. Donations from High Mowing Seeds, Gardeners’ Supply, Guy’s Farm & Yard, and local farmers made it possible, and local food pantries will receive the bounty. It is also the first statehouse vegetable garden in the country in modern times. (Yet another “first” for Vermont.)

Go to www.vermontstatehousegarden.org to learn about upcoming workshops and harvest days at the garden. And the next time you walk across Vermont’s most treasured lawn, take a look at what hopefully will become, over the years, Vermont’s most treasured garden.

—Caroline Abels


About the Author

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels is the editor of Local Banquet and the founder-editor of Humaneitarian.org, a website that inspires people to buy and eat humanely raised meat.

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Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply.