In January, 2015, Edible Brattleboro founder Marilyn Chiarello, a former elementary school teacher and vegan chef, was first inspired to bring edible landscapes to Brattleboro after viewing Pam Warhurst’s TED Talk, entitled “How We Can Eat Our Landscapes.” With the support of Post Oil Solutions, a not-for-profit that develops sustainable practices in the community, a group of interested parties convened and began planning.
Among the original group, Katherine Barratt and Marilyn Chiarello continue to be active volunteers. They approached the manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op to see whether there would be any interest to partner and donate a grassy area in the parking lot that runs along the Whetstone Brook. General Manager, Sabine Rhyne, was excited about the idea and offered space for the original 4’ x 8’ raised bed, which was donated by Cedar Goods.
That first free, help-yourself garden resulted in a healthy harvest of produce and herbs from donated seeds and plants.
Edible Brattleboro’s second edible landscape originally began as a “gratitude” project of one of the founding mothers, Cimbria Badenhausen, who made arrangements with Turning Point Recovery Center to offer a permaculture class and have the participants design and install garden beds. Shortly after the gardens were established in 2015, she moved from Vermont, and since 2016 Edible Brattleboro (EB), with the help of EB’s Turning Point liaison, Jenny Dunklee, has maintained and expanded the gardens.
Acting on Jenny’s suggestion to utilize the grassy area along the sidewalk, Edible Brattleboro offered a sheet mulching workshop/blitz in the fall of 2016 and prepared several beds for planting the following growing season. Several vegetable beds were created at the street level along the sidewalk, inviting passers-by to “help yourself.”
In the fall of 2016, Edible Brattleboro received its first grant, a SEED grant, from New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF). This funding enabled the expansion of the gardens at both locations.
In 2017, inspired by a similar initiative from Transition Dummerston, Edible Brattleboro launched its Share the Harvest stand. The stand is operated on Sundays, and provides free fruit and vegetables sourced from the two Edible Brattleboro gardens, local residents’ gardens, and the generous donations from farmers at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market.
In 2018, EB was awarded a second grant from NEGEF along with generous donations from Marilyn Chiarello and Derrik Jordan, allowing the EB to raise its profile in the community and expand its two main gardens, and make plans for planting fruit trees in several new locations.
The Edible Brattleboro Steering Committee continues to explore new ideas for connecting people with healthy whole foods and building community and healthy soil. In addition to replacing lawns with vegetables and fruit for healthy eating, and flowers that attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, Edible Brattleboro is educating people about the interconnectedness of health, food, soil and community.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Vermont Foodbank, Edible Brattleboro has been able to hire two consultants/staff members.
Caitlin Holden is our new Community Outreach Coordinator, responsible for non-digital outreach to the Brattleboro community, establishing and maintaining strong relationships with community partners, and supporting fundraising activities. Caitlin is a Brattleboro resident currently pursuing a graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling. She previously worked at Keene State College and SIT in outreach and education.
Jamie Champney is our new Cooking Educator/Coordinator, responsible for planning and executing culinary experiences, including cooking classes, food preservation workshops, demonstrations and sampling. She also works as a Coordinator and Cooking educator for Oak Grove School.
Marilyn Chiarello is one of the founding“mamas”of Edible Brattleboro, and continues to serve as a leader with a vision. Less than two years after she moved to Brattleboro, inspired by a TedTalk, she envisioned replacing lawns around town with edible landscapes for all to share. She then shared this vision with Tim Stevenson of Post Oil Solutions, who helped find other interested parties to get the project started.
Within a few months,the first Edible Brattleboro garden was planted. For most of her adult life, Marilyn shared her passion for the environment and nutrition, with her elementary school students. After teaching for 35 years, she “rewired” and started teaching classes in raw vegan food preparation. Several years later Marilyn left her home on Long Island and adopted Brattleboro as her new home, where she has been able to apply her educational experience with her interest in the environment, nutrition and building community.
Tom was raised by a dedicated vegetable gardening mom whom he helped occasionally. You never forget the superior taste of home grown veggies! After college he left behind well-developed vegetable gardens near just about every apartment in which he lived.
Towards the end of Tom’s middle school teaching career, he was motivated to build a school teaching/eating garden. Greenie’s Garden can be visited at Riverside Middle School in Springfield, VT. In Tom’s final year of teaching, a short article, with photo, appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer. It showed 5 women standing around a small raised bed and announced the beginning of Edible Brattleboro and its’ mission. Tom showed it to his wife and vowed that he would join these folks when he retired at the end of the year. And so he did!
Tom coordinates all the Edible Brattleboro gardens in town, ensuring that they are planted, watered, weeded, and harvested. He also spearheaded our greenhouse project and oversees its care, maintenance, and planting.
Barbara is a former welfare mother and food stamp recipient, which has led her to being active in the areas of poverty and hunger. Before moving to Brattleboro, she volunteered with the Maryland Hunger Solutions. Her grandmother introduced her to gardening when she was 10 years old, and since then she has put in a new garden every place she’s lived.