American Community Garden Association Conference Reflection

In late July, Dan and Meghan traveled down to Hartford, Connecticut for the 38th annual American Community Garden Association conference. As soon as they arrived, they were met with delicious local food and riveting conversations about gardens. There were 4 main themes for the conference: Cultivating community, sustainability, policy and social justice, Gardening and running a community garden basics, Youth and school gardening, Innovative programs and new directions. It was a weekend filled with learning, problem solving, and getting to know the greater gardening community throughout the country.

The first full day was primarily focused on workshops. Dan was one of the presenters and spoke about the history of Burlington’s community garden program. Other attendees were fascinated by how our program has evolved over time and how it has maintained and actually increased its strength throughout the years. Some other topics that were discussed throughout the day were: how to mentor and manage gardeners, incorporating pollinators into gardens, composting, cultural competency in the garden (presented by Alisha Laramee of AALV!), how to deal with climate change in the garden, natural wellness, and the list goes on. It was an intense but fulfilling day of learning!

The 2nd day of the conference was the “field trip day”. Everyone went on different tours around neighboring areas to see and learn about gardens and programs. Dan and Meghan took the same tour, but Dan did the biking version and Meghan did the bus version, so they had different experiences, but at least got to eat lunch together. Seeing some of Hartford’s community gardens was an incredible experience. The organization KNOX is responsible for maintaining all of the community gardens in the city, as well as planting trees and beautifying the city with plants. Hearing about their accomplishments over the years was exciting! The cultural diversity that exists within their community gardens is absolutely incredible and getting to meet some of their gardeners was more than Dan and Meghan could have asked for. They met one gardener in particular, Michael, who was a highlight of the trip. He’s originally from Jamaica, but has been gardening with KNOX for over about 10 years. He has a beautifully intricate herb garden, which allows him to study herbalism (on top of his 3 degrees in plant biology). He spends his days cultivating his space and learning from it as well as sharing his knowledge with other, like us. Being able to see the impact that KNOX has had on Hartford was inspiring!

The last day was a little less formal, but still invigorating. All of the attendees that were still at the conference gathered together in one room, and participated in “popcorn sessions” about themes, ideas, and problems that still needed to be addressed on a deeper level. This was a chance for people to break up into groups and discuss things that they had come to the conference to learn about. The benefits from that session were unmeasurable!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. Dan and Meghan came away rejuvenated and with new and exciting ideas for the program as well as ways to enhance what we are already lucky enough to have. One major takeaway from the conference is that BACG as a whole is an amazing program thanks to all of its community members. We have such a passionate group of gardeners who care about the gardens and BACG would not be the program it is today without them!