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.